While the liability of employers in the State of Illinois has been expanded substantially by recent amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act and the recent decision of the US District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (Case No. 15-1720), which was a landmark decision holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, there have been few, if any, cases in which Illinois employers have had to bear the responsibility for the criminal conduct of their employees. Unfortunately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued a decision (March 24, 2017) in the Case of Sherry Anicich v. Home Depot USA, Inc.; Grand Service, LLC and Grand Flower Growers, Inc. (Case No. 16-1693). The Federal Court, acting and applying Illinois law, found that the joint employers were liable for the criminal acts of a supervisor (Brian Cooper - Regional Manager) in his rape and murder of Alisha Bromfield.
The Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act") was enacted to provide protections to Illinois workers beyond those offered under federal law. Among many other protections, the Act makes it illegal in Illinois to inquire about or use arrest information or expunged, sealed or impounded criminal history information with respect to a person's employment. However, the Act allows an employer to act against (fire, not hire, demote, etc.) an employee or job applicant if the employer is acting on "other information" which indicates that the person actually engaged in the conduct that was the subject of the arrest (besides the basic fact that the employee or applicant was arrested). Arrest information can appear on routine background checks commonly performed as part of the hiring process but employers must be aware of how they can and cannot use this arrest information. The Act generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees employed at least 20 weeks of the year, and also to employment agencies and labor organizations.
A new law in Illinois, billed as the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act (the "Act"), will apply several federal and state laws to previously unprotected domestic workers. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2017, grants nannies, housekeepers, home healthcare workers, and chauffeurs new employment protections and affords new avenues for claims to be made against their employers. Employers of domestic workers are often single households or families who hire help for their children and housecleaning, and who are ill equipped to handle employment litigation compared to the average business.
Governor Quinn recently signed a bill that will amend the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment. As you may recall, the IHRA expansively covers employers with one or more employees (in general, employees with 15 or more employees are covered by the IHRA).
On August 26, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 8 (HB8) that amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) by placing "new obligations on employers" with regard to their pregnant employees. While the law will not take effect until January 1, 2015, employers should be cognizant of the new obligations imposed upon them.