In late August, Governor Bruce Rauner approved amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA). The IHRA amendments went into effect immediately, while the IWPCA amendments will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.
Given the changes to the IHRA, employers can anticipate an increase of complaints filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), as well as more state court discrimination litigation. The IWPCA amendments focus on compensating employees who use personal cell phones for work purposes. Employers should assess and update reimbursement policies to minimize any liability that could be created through failure to comply with IWPCA’s new provisions, especially in today’s world of BYOD (bring your own device to work)
Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 100-1066, which makes three changes to the IHRA:
1) Employees now have 300 calendar days from the date of an alleged civil rights violation to file a charge with the IDHR (up from 180 days);
2) To decrease the backlog of cases and increase expediency of the administrative process, the Illinois Human Rights Commission will consist of seven full time members, instead of the current 13 part-time members.
3) The IHRA amendments allow for employees to opt out of the IDHR’s administrative investigation and immediately bring a lawsuit in the Illinois state circuit courts. Within 10 days of an employee filing a charge with the IDHR, the IDHR must send the employee notice of his/her right to opt out of the IDHR’s investigative process. An employee has 60 days from receipt of the IDHR’s notice to submit a written request seeking permission to opt out of the investigative process. If the employee chooses to opt out, the IDHR has another 10-day period to respond to the employee’s request. The right to opt out will not require a factual or legal determination by the IDHR. Once the employee receives a notice indicating that the request to opt out is granted, the employee has 90 days to file suit in circuit court.
These amendments are likely to result in increased charge filings in the IDHR and opt outs into the Circuit courts.
In addition, Governor Rauner signed Public Act 100-1094 into law which will require employers to reimburse employees for costs incurred in connection with their employment. Employers should create a written reimbursement policy, and employees must comply with said policy in order to gain their right to reimbursement. In effect, expenses incurred on behalf of the employer must be reimbursed. The Act states that employees are required to submit expenses within 30 days but the employer can extend this time period in its policy.
The key to this provision is the reimbursement of charges for cell phones and other electronic devices used by employees for their work. Employers are encouraged to enforce their policies regarding expense reimbursement as the employer is entitled to deny reimbursement where the policy is not followed.