HB 2525 (Hoffman/Raoul) is being promoted by the House & Senate Democrats as workers’ compensation reform. It is far from it. Codification of current bad case law for “causation” and “traveling employee” merely locks employers into the court expanded liability. Senate amendment 2 offers some relief but is far outweighed by increased regulation and litigation that are contained in the measure. The Senate approved the bill on a 35-19-1 vote this afternoon. It goes back to the House for concurrence which returns Sunday at 4 pm. Republican Senator Sam McCann was the lone GOP vote in support. No Democrat voted against the bill.
Also approved by the Senate was HB 2622 (Fine/Biss). This measure uses employer and insurer tax dollars to capitalize the creation of a state established, mutual insurance company to compete with the over 300 insurers that already provide workers’ compensation coverage. The $10 million of startup money are tax dollars that currently go to run the operations of the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The legislation provides that the funds are a “loan” to be paid back with interest. Given the track record regarding finances of Illinois state government, it is difficult to believe the loan would be paid in a timely fashion. Furthermore, removing resources meant to support the operations of the Commission jeopardizes the entire adjudication of workers’ compensation for injured workers as well as employers. The Senate approval was 32-20-1 and sends the measure to the Governor. Again, Sen. McCann was the only Republican vote. Democrats Mike Hastings and Steve Landek voted “no”.
As reported earlier this year, Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) introduced HB 2802. This legislation requires all covered employers to offer at least one transportation benefit program. An employer may choose between providing a program consistent with federal law that allows employees to elect to exclude from taxable wages and compensation the employee's commuting costs incurred for the purchase of a transit pass to use public transit or for the purchase of qualified parking, or a program under which the employer supplies a transit pass for the particular qualifying public transit requested by the covered employee or reimburses the covered employee for payments made for the use of qualified parking.
Rep. Mah and the proponents have negotiated with (our lobbyist) and others in the business community to reduce the impact on employers in the Chicagoland area. Major changes to the bill include:
- The benefits will be available only to fulltime employees(working 35 hours per week after 120 days of employment);
- Covered employers are employers with 25 or more full-time employees in the RTA/CTA service area; and
- Exempts current collective bargaining agreements.
The legislation is on third reading in the Senate but will be called back to add the amendment.
On May 30, 2017, the Illinois House approved SB 81, as amended, on a 61-53-2 vote. The measure increases the current $8.25 minimum wage to $15 per hour by January 1, 2022. There is a convoluted income tax credit for employers with less than 50 employees to assist in offsetting some of the costs of the increase. Also, certain workers under age 18 will have a lower minimum wage. The bill was sponsored by rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). No Republicans supported the bill and Democrats Jerry Costello and Carol Sente voted “no” and Stephanie Kifowit and Sue Scherer voted “present”. The legislation returns to the Senate to consider the amendment.
Other measures approved May 30 include:
HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller-D-Elgin/Sen. Biss) Equal Pay - Wage History: Prohibits an employer from: (i) screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history, (ii) requiring that an applicant's prior wages satisfy minimum or maximum criteria, and (iii) requesting or requiring as a condition of being interviewed or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary. Prohibits an employer from seeking the salary, including benefits or other compensation or salary history, of a job applicant from any current or former employer.
In addition, the very concerning changes being made by HB 2462 are the undermining of employer defenses along with the expansion of civil penalties, including punitive damages and injunctive relief. The question we ask is this legislation really about limiting what employers can ask of a job applicant or is the bill all about increasing litigation opportunities and judicial awards against employers? The Senate approved the legislation on a 35-18-1 vote. The legislation now goes to the Governor who has yet to signal his intentions on this measure.
HB 2771 (Rep. C. Mitchell-D-Chicago/Sen. Hutchinson-D-Olympia Fields) Mandated Paid Leave: As amended, both bills require employers to provide 40 hours of paid sick time to employees. An employee may earn sick days 120 days after beginning employment at the accrual rate of one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. School districts, park districts, and certain City of Chicago sister agencies are exempt. The Department of Labor will administer the program. Individuals may file civil actions with respect to violations of the new Act. If an employer offers a personal time off (PTO) benefit the employer is not required to change its policy if the policy allows up to 40 hours of sick time. This provision however is not an exemption from the Act meaning that even with a PTO policy in place, an employer must comply with all other features of the Act. The Senate approved the bill on a 31-17 vote. No Republican voted for the measure. Several Democrats were not voting: Sen. Scott Bennett Sen. Napoleon Harris; Sen. Mike Hastings; Sen. Steve Landek; and Sen. Steve Stadelman. This legislation had Senate amendments that now go back to the House for consideration.
HB 3092 sponsored by Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond)/ Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Chicago) streamlines the administrative investigations of employment discrimination charges including elimination of the verified response. The legislation received unanimous Senate approval and awaits concurrence by the House to a Senate amendment.
HR 422 sponsored by Majority Leader Barbara Curry (D-Chicago) was approved on a 66-48 vote and stops Gov. Rauner's Executive Order consolidating the Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Human Rights Commission. It is anticipated that there will be a meeting of stakeholders to develop legislation to address the tremendous backlog of charges at the Commission. The Illinois Chamber will be involved in those discussions.
SB 1697 sponsored by Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)/ Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) prohibits an employer from imposing as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment any term or condition that requires a person to violate or forgo a sincerely held practice of his or her religion including the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion. An employer may provide for dress codes or grooming policies that include restrictions related to the maintenance of workplace safety or food sanitation. This measure is on its way to the Governor.
SB 1720 (Biss/Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Chicago)) increases criminal penalties for violation of the Wage Payment & Collection Act. It also bars contractors for 5 years from bidding on any state procurement by a business violating certain Illinois employment laws, any comparable laws in other states or the federal FLSA. It was approved by the House on a 67-48 vote. The House amendment is on the Senate Calendar awaiting concurrence before going to the Governor.
SB 1895 sponsored by Sen. Sam McCann (R-Carlinville)/Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Eldorado) amends the Volunteer Emergency Worker Job Protection Act to protect any person who serves as either emergency medical services worker on a volunteer basis from being disciplined or terminated by his or her employer for responding to an emergency call or emergency text message during work hours that requests the individual's volunteer emergency medical services or volunteer firefighter services. The change does not diminish or supersede an employer's written workplace policy, a collective bargaining agreement, administrative guidelines, or other applicable written rules administered by the employer. Existing written policies governing the use of cell phones shall prevail and control. The Senate is considering the amendment adopted in the House.