November 8, 2022 marks the day Illinois constituents vote for midterm elections. That is if they have not already sent in early ballots. On the ballot this year, voters will see a proposed amendment that would add a new section to the Bill of Rights Article of the Illinois Constitution that would guarantee workers the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively, and negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions. This post breaks down this new amendment, looks at the greater political debate, and analyzes how it affects Illinois businesses.
In September 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new instruction which broadens the scope of the agency’s inspection program, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The previous directive, which went into effect in 2010, allowed OSHA to place employers in the program if its employees committed certain serious violations, especially if they had already been cited for the violation once or received a failure-to-abate notice. The new instruction allows OSHA to place employers in the program that probably would not have met the criteria in the previous directive.
2021 brought on many challenges never faced before for employers, most of which surrounded the central issue of working from home. Employers struggled to keep employees focused with all the distractions of being at home, technology connectivity issues, and making sure employees could still stay connected on a personal level with co-workers. While we may finally be shifting slightly away from the work from home space, 2022 will bring on a whole new variety of employment compliance issues that companies will need to tackle. Now that employees are coming back to the office, the focus will be shifted from managing work from home experiences to minimum wage increases, discrimination protections, and marijuana legalizations just to name a few.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“the Act”), enacted in 1938, protects public and private employees with a federal minimum wage, requirements for overtime pay, and youth employment standards. Despite protections established for children under the Act, children in the entertainment industry are expressly excluded from its protections. Instead, minors in the entertainment industry must rely on state regulation of their employment, which is often stricter and more protective than the Act. However, there is a massive loophole in that the entertainment industry in most states does not include child influencers and social media stars. With the increase in social media in the last decade, children in the social media sector are left in limbo about their rights and employment protections. State entertainment laws for minors must be extended to include the fast-growing number of children growing up in social media fame.
Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (“COMPs Order”) #37 has replaced COMPS Order #36 (2020), which substantially expanded coverage in meals and break requirements, minimum wage and overtime requirements to almost every private employer in Colorado. The changes are designed to provide consistency between minimum wage, overtime and paid sick leave standards under the new Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (“HFWA”). Some changes include increasing Colorado’s minimum wage, making exemptions to COMPs #37 more stringent, and continuing paid sick leave benefits through 2021 due to the pandemic. These new employee-friendly adjustments have been adopted and became effective on January 1, 2021.
As COVID-19 is back on the rise throughout the United States and various vaccine trials are occurring, employers are beginning to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all their employees. While no vaccine has been approved yet, predictions point to a possible release by the end of the year. The vaccine is not expected to be readily available until mid-2021 for the general public, which makes it difficult for most employers to mandate vaccination at least until 2021. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has yet to release guidance on COVID-19 vaccine so it is best to consider guidelines discussing flu vaccines for now. Although there are necessary accommodations due to federal legislation, vaccine programs are permissible.
There seems to be no end in sight to the various concerns associated with COVID-19, and experts are hesitant to say when and if life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” As the pandemic persisted, companies large and small quickly realized that jobs we all assumed had to be done in an office, can in fact be done from the comfort of one’s home. #WFH is a trending social media hashtag standing for “work from home,” and posts using this hashtag range anywhere from how to dress comfortably while remaining professional when working from home to setting up the perfect home office. #WFH, however, is not just a social media trend, but a new normal for many Americans as employers were forced to allow their employees to work from home due to health concerns related to COVID-19. This gives rise to questions such as, what about safety and security concerns related to employer data? And, where do employees draw the line between work and home when working from home? While this may be uncharted territory, top researchers say that #WFH may be the next big thing for companies worldwide.
On July 31, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 834 into law amending the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003. The law, which will go into effect on September 29, 2019, makes it unlawful for employers to ask applicants about their salary history. Governor Pritzker signed the Bill with the intention of eliminating the wage gap that exists between men and women in Illinois. In 2019, half of the Illinois workforce is women, but women working in Illinois earn 79 percent of what men earn. The wage gap is exacerbated for women of color. According to The American Association of University Women, Black women in the United States are paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. As a result of the amended law, Illinois employers will need to act quickly to make changes to their hiring procedures.