After a two and one-half year span of time covering two (2) administrations and pitting business interests against those of labor, the City of Chicago on July 24, 2019 passed the Fair Workweek Ordinance. This legislation will require companies in the covered industries to give all of their covered workers ten (10) calendar days of Notice of Work Schedules beginning July 1, 2020 and fourteen (14) calendar days as of July 1, 2022.
If an employer is planning on terminating an employee whom the employer feels may be litigious or a "high-risk termination," then the employer may want the employee to sign a carefully prepared severance and release agreement. Giving an employee severance (i.e., money or something of value) in exchange for the employee signing a release of all claims against the employer is a legally acceptable mechanism for an employer to avoid potential litigation.
On June 2, 2019, the Illinois General Assembly approved the Workplace Transparency Act providing certain protections concerning sexual harassment in the workplace and imposing significant new obligations on Illinois Employers. This Bill was signed into law by Governor Pritzker in June 2019 and the provision of the new bill become effective January 1, 2020.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a recent decision (June 12, 2019) in the case of Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority has joined the Second, Sixth and Eighth Circuit in finding that Obesity, standing alone, is not an impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) absent an underlying psychological cause. This is an extremely important decision based on the fact that it is estimated that forty (40) percent of the current adult population is dealing with obesity.
If an individual is found to be an independent contractor under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that individual cannot sue for discrimination under that law because they are not an employee. Only employees can claim legal protection under Title VII. A surgeon recently discovered this legal reality when she sued the hospital for discrimination. She sued because the hospital revoked her medical practice privileges. She claimed to be an employee (and not an independent contractor), and therefore sued the hospital as her employer under Title VII on the basis of her sex, religion and ethnicity.
Initially, the news that any individual in your company has filed an Internal Report detailing potential illegal, inappropriate or unethical behavior may seem like a terrible development and it is natural to feel shocked or concerned when such an event occurs but it is better than keeping it in the dark. Simply stated, if a "whistleblower" brings up a real problem, you may want to deal with it and get it resolved before the issue can affect the business' viability. In point of fact, a recent report in Harvard Business Review written by researchers Stephen Stubben of the University of Utah and Kyle Welch of the George Washington University found that internal whistleblowing is really a sign of a company's good health. In fact, in an analysis of over one million internal whistleblower reports at United States companies, they found that those companies that had active and viable reporting systems for internal reporting were more likely to be able to address those issues before they became costly legal problems. Do not overlook the mandates under the Sarbanes - Oxley Act that require "public companies" to have in place a procedure/plan to allow employees to engage in "anonymous whistleblowing" as part of their compliance programs. It should also be noted that under the Bounty programs established through the False Claims Act and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, those Bounty Programs may get employees to report to the government potential illegal or unethical behavior rather than to their company. When it is done internally within the organization, it is certainly better for the company than becoming embroiled in a lengthy and costly governmental investigation.
◊The Impact On Your Business Practices ◊
In the Boeing Company case (365 NLRB No. 154 (2017)), the National Labor Relations Board established a new system for interpreting Employer policies and whether or not they would have a negative impact on an Employer's ability to exercise their Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Specifically in the Boeing Company case, the NLRB determined that the Employer's "no camera rule" was lawful because the Employer (Boeing) articulated sufficient justifications, including specific security protocols necessary to perform classified work for the United States Government that excepted the "no camera rule" of the Employer from the potential violation of Employee Section 7 rights. Unfortunately, many Employers have interpreted this NLRB ruling to be a "blanket coverage" protecting an Employer's policies vis-a-vis Section 7 rights. Unfortunately, that is not true.
Under the tripartite leadership of Pritzker, Madigan and Cullerton, Illinois is quickly attempting to "catch up" to California as a very pro-employee State.
On May 31, 2019, the State of Illinois approved House Bill 1438 which created the "Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act". This Bill was signed, with a lot of "fanfare and publicity," by Governor Pritzker on June 24, 2019. The Act provides that, effective January 1, 2020, Illinois Residents who are 21 years of age or older may legally possess up to thirty (30) grams of cannabis flower; no more than 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis infused products and five (5) grams of cannabis concentrate. Non-Illinois residents will be able to legally possess fifteen (15) grams of cannabis flower; no more than 250 milligrams of THC and cannabis-infused products and 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate (i.e., one-half of that Illinois available residents). Any and all permitted cannabis purchases must be made from licensed cannabis dispensaries. Obviously, the House Bill also provided substantial tax incentives to be taken on the above purchases and, in the opinion of the author, that is the major or principal reason that this legislation has been passed.