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Three Important New Pieces Of Legislation Are Set To Change the Legal Landscape for Illinois Employers

Our labor and employment law firm partner, SmithAmundsen, LLC has provided us with the following legislative updates that impact employers. If you have any questions after reviewing this important news or would like assistance in reviewing and updating your current policies, please do not hesitate to contact our Human Capital Management Practice Leader, Greg Crawford at (630) 571-6198 or at gcrawford@amwestbrook.com.

The first is the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

This Act is more commonly known as “Ban the Box” legislation, and it is part of a nation-wide movement to ban employment application questions that ask about an applicant’s criminal record. Illinois’ version of Ban the Box does have three exemptions:

  1. for employers subject to federal or state law requirements regarding hiring individuals with certain criminal convictions.
  2. for positions that require standard fidelity bonds or similar bonds which may not be available to individuals with certain crime convictions
  3. for employers with employees who are licensed under the Medical Emergency Services Systems Act.

Going forward, employers that do not meet any of the exemptions must ensure that their job applications have deleted any inquiries relating to criminal history. That said, the new law’s reach is fairly limited—which is to say that the law makes very clear that it is acceptable to inquire into criminal history after an applicant has been notified that he or she will receive an interview or conditional job offer.


The second is the Workplace Violence Prevention Act, which was also recently amended, and those amendments took effect on July 16, 2014.

The changes include a revised definition of “credible threat of violence,” revisions to the standards for obtaining what is now called a “workplace protection restraining order” (formerly: “order of protection”), and more detail on the procedures for obtaining relief under the Act. Employers should familiarize themselves with these new procedures, and pay close attention to a new provision that requires notification to employees in circumstances in which an employer intends to seek a restraining order arising from an incident of domestic violence directed at an employee.

In such circumstances, the employer must consult with the employee before seeking the restraining order to determine whether the employer’s pursuit of such an order will adversely affect the employee. And if the employee does not voluntarily consent to the employer’s pursuit of the restraining order, the employer must wait four days before filing a request for the restraining order, unless an immediate threat of imminent physical harm exists. In connection with these requirements, the employer is also required to notify employee victims of domestic violence of their rights under the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”).


Lastly, amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) relating to pregnancy discrimination and accommodations recently came out of the General Assembly and were just signed into law by Governor Quinn.

The amendments expand the coverage of the IHRA to employers having one or more employees, with respect to discrimination and accommodations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Additionally, the amendments expressly require employers to offer reasonable accommodations to employees as needed with respect to pregnancy, childbirth, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Going forward, Illinois employers of all sizes must update policies and train managers to recognize potential pregnancy-related accommodation requests and evidence of discrimination. The State of Illinois is making pregnancy-related accommodation and discrimination issues a priority, and employers should therefore expect an increase in employee requests and enforcement actions.

In light of these three pieces of legislation, this is the time to review and update your hiring policies and employment applications to determine whether your business is in compliance with, or exempt from, the new “ban the box” requirements. Additionally, it is a good time to update your employee handbook workplace violence policies to ensure that they provide sufficient notice of the rights and relief the Workplace Violence Prevention Act amendments provide. Managers and executives should also be trained to recognize “credible threats of violence,” and internal management policies for responding to such threats and obtaining relief under the Workplace Violence Prevention Act should be established or revised as necessary to ensure that your business responds quickly and appropriately to such threats.

When updating employee handbook policies relating to anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation policies, we need to ensure that they expressly reference pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Employers with fewer than 15 employees may need to implement such policies for the first time as the IHRA’s pregnancy provisions are expected to apply even to employers that have only one employee.

Again, please let us know if you have questions regarding these three pieces of legislation. American Westbrook works closely with SmithAmundsen to ensure that we provide timely information as well as guidance and advice as necessary to our clients on employment law related matters.