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Looking Back at 2013! Employment Laws Enacted in Illinois This Year

December 2013

By: Ryan M. Helgeson, Esq.

2013 was a busy year for the Illinois legislature. They enacted several new employment laws this year which may affect your business. Employers should plan to review and update their handbook policies as required. The following is a brief overview of many of the new laws passed this year:

  • Social Media Privacy (Effective January 1, 2014): Illinois recently passed two new laws that impact the privacy of employees' social media accounts. The first law allows employees whose electronic communications are unlawfully monitored to sue for civil remedies, including actual and punitive damages. The second law amends the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to clarify that employers may seek password or other account information related to social media accounts that are used for business purposes.
  • Medical Marijuana (Effective January 1, 2014): The Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act allows individuals with physician-diagnosed, qualifying "debilitating medical conditions" to lawfully possess and use limited quantities of marijuana for medical purposes. These qualifying individuals must have a physician's written certification for marijuana use, must register with the state, and possess a valid registry identification card. A registered cardholder can possess and use marijuana without being subject to arrest or prosecution under relevant Illinois laws. Importantly, the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act expressly states that "nothing in this Act shall prevent a private business from restricting or prohibiting the medical use of cannabis on its property." Additionally, no one may possess cannabis in a vehicle under the Illinois Vehicle Code unless it is in a secured, reasonably inaccessible container and no one may use cannabis in a motor vehicle or in any "public place."
  • Cell phone usage (Effective January 1, 2014): This new law amends the Illinois Vehicle Code to prohibit the use of a cellular device while driving. Drivers are permitted to use a cell phone if they are using a hands-free device (e.g. a Bluetooth headset) or are using the phone in voice-activated mode. The law does not apply to drivers utilizing a CB radio, a fleet management system, dispatching device, or music player. Drivers may also be exempt from the law if they are reporting an emergency, using one button to start or end a call, or have their cars in park while using the device.
  • Illinois Employee Classification Act (Effective January 1, 2014): The Illinois ECA requires construction-related employers to consider specific legal factors in determining whether a worker qualifies as an "employee" or an "independent contractor." The two new amendments impose new additional contractor reporting requirements, and specify that an officer of the company can be held personally liable for misclassification. Penalties range from $1000 per day per worker for the first violation to $2000 per day per employee for each additional violation. The Illinois Department of Labor enforces this law.
  • Concealed Carry (Effective January 1, 2014): The Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act will allow individuals with a valid license issued by the Illinois Department of State Police to carry a concealed handgun. Certain background and training requirements must be met before a license will be issued. There are also several restrictions on where a concealed handgun may be carried. Private employers who wish to prohibit the carrying of firearms must clearly and conspicuously post the approved sign at the entrance of the building or premises.
  • Prevailing Wage Laws (Effective January 1, 2014): The amendments to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act and related regulations state that employers ordered by a court to pay back wages or final compensation due to a wage and hour claim must pay additional fees ranging from $250 to $1000, depending on the amount owed. Further, amendments to the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act create additional record-keeping responsibilities for employers.
  • Workplace Violence (Effective January 1, 2014): Enables employers to quickly obtain protective orders when a credible threat of workplace violence is made. Failure to address a credible threat of workplace violence can result in claims of negligence and prosecution under OSHA's general duty clause.

If you have questions regarding these new laws and how they may affect your business, Attorney Ryan Helgeson is happy to help you. Please contact Ryan at (630) 377-1554 or at ryhelgeson@wesselssherman.com.