In the almost sixty years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women and people of color are still deprived of wages equal to their male and white coworkers. Illinois has recently made strides to level the playing field by passing amendments to their Equal Pay Act requiring large companies to disclose demographic data on their employees and sign compliance statements regarding pay discrimination. Going forward, Chicago is considering requiring employers to post salary ranges on their job postings, while the Biden Administration has been fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The future of equal wages in America depends on the results of these crucial legislative battles.
The Coalition to Protect Telehealth and State Representative Deb Conroy of the Illinois 46th House District have introduced legislation that would permanently expand access to telehealth services for Illinoisans. The legislation also details provisions that promote telehealth payment rate partity between telehealth services and in-person care. In a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth providers have been granted temporary waivers to align their payment rates with those prescribed for traditional care in health care facilities. These waivers have served as stabilizing financial mechanisms for many practitioners experiencing revenue loss due to the restrictions on elective procedures and non-emergency care. The proposed legislation would give patients more freedom to utilize telehealth services by removing the patient responsibilities to demonstrate hardship or access issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities more than any other demographic, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total mortality rate from the virus in the United States. According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), at least 132,000 residents and employees have died from complications of the COVID-19 across 31,000 facilities, although some estimates place the death count closer to 200,000. One factor aggravating the number of deaths in nursing homes is the extraordinarily high rate of staff turnover each year.
The latest COVID-19 relief package passed on March 11, 2021 by Congress provides a total of $1.9 trillion in mandatory funding, program changes, and tax policies designed to address the enduring economic damage caused by the pandemic. About 15% of the total package will be allocated to states and local governments to tackle budgetary issues associated with the pandemic with very few strings attached. The State of Illinois and the city of Chicago are in the process of assessing the relief package and formulating plans as to how they will allocate the funds.
If you live in Illinois, you have likely seen in the past couple of days this vibrant blue commercial at least once or twice. The commercial encourages Illinois voters to “Vote Yes for Fairness” at the polls this November by voting their approval of an amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The proposed amendment would change the state’s current state income system from a flat tax to a graduated income tax. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker made the adoption of a progressive income tax a centerpiece of his policy agenda in a budget address back in February 2019, and it was geared up to be a focus of election-season debates before the COVID-19 pandemic took precedence. With the Illinois general election less than fifty days away, however, the ‘Vote Yes for Fairness’ campaign has bolstered its attempts at garnering voters’ approval of the proposed amendment.
By now most people are familiar with the #MeToo movement. The movement began in 2006 by women, specifically Tarana Burke and women of color from low wealth communities, to help survivors of sexual violence. Eleven years after the movement was founded, it exploded during the fall of 2017 when well-known women in the entertainment industry began to use the famous #MeToo hashtag and shared their stories of sexual, discrimination, abuse and harassment. Two and half years later, there has been some change, but not enough. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said the biggest impact of #MeToo is that it decreased the stigma associated with sexual abuse and harassment and increased awareness.
An article published on November 19, 2019 by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune has alerted Illinois lawmakers, parents, and school personnel of the widespread use of seclusion rooms for isolated timeouts. The use of these rooms, which has now been halted by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and Governor J.B. Pritzker, has been legal in Illinois for over twenty years. The students who are most frequently placed in these rooms have an emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disability, and special education advocates are calling for an end to this practice. These rooms were introduced as a legally-sanctioned separation method to prevent students from harming themselves or others, but the investigative article found that students are often unlawfully placed in these rooms for minor behavioral infractions. The report also found that parents and school administrators did not have knowledge of the full scope of isolated time-out use for their students.
In 2008, the Illinois legislature introduced and passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which became the first law of its kind in the US. BIPA was passed to protect individuals against the unlawful collection and storing of biometric information. While many states have enacted similar laws, BIPA remains the most stringent among its contemporaries.
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.
Cook County General Administrative Order 18-1 pertains to the Standard HIPAA Qualified Protective Orders (QPO) that will be permitted in Cook County. These orders will only be allowed for cases that are in litigation where the Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel authorize disclosure of a litigants’ protected health information (PHI). It also requires all entities who received PHI to either return the documents to the Plaintiff or destroy them at the end of the case. These changes mean that Plaintiff’s attorneys will see a change in the handling of Plaintiff’s medical records and other documents covered under the QPO containing PHI.