Employment Law Update for 2017

Ah, Illinois, the land of wonder, where is is illegal to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck; or eat in a place that is on fire; or fly a kite within the city limits of Chicago (true!). 2017 has arrived, bringing with it a whole new series of laws that will affect the employment law landscape. Briefly described are changes to the labor and employment field that will impact the way employers and employees relate to each other:

Paid Sick Leave: Effective January 1, 2017, The Illinois Employee Paid Sick Leave Act requires Illinois Employers who provide sick leave benefits to their employees to take such leaves of absences due to injury, illness or medical appointment of the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother in law, father in law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent. The leave must be granted on the same terms under which the employee is eligible to use sick leave benefits for his or her own illness or injury. The Act does NOT require employers to adopt sick leave policies if they do not already have them in place. Also note that the Act includes a provision prohibiting retaliation for use of rights under the Act. Employers can not deny an employee the right to use personal leave benefits. Furthermore, they can not discharge, suspend or discriminate against an employee for using their personal sick leave benefits in accordance with the Act. The Act does not extend the maximum period of leave specified under the FMLA, regardless of whether the employee receives sick leave compensation during that leave. An employer may provide greater sick leave benefits than required under the Act.

In the City of Chicago, beginning on July 1, 2017, the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, many employers in the City of Chicago will be required to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave benefits. Cook County has passed a similar ordinance.

Higher Minimum Wages: Currently the federal minimum wage is $7,75 per hour. The minimum wage in the state of Illinois stands at $8.25 per hour. Currently, in the City of Chicago, for non-tipped employees, the minimum wage is $10.50 per hour. Effective July 1, 2017, the minimum wage in the City of Chicago for non-tipped employees will rise to $11.00 per hour and for tipped employees, the o will be $5.95, indexed to the cost of living.

Employees that work in the cities comprising Cook County (other than Chicago) will also see mandated raises in the minimum wage. The first increase, to $10 an hour, takes effect July 1, 2017. The wage rises to $11 a year later and to $12 in July 2019. It hits $13 an hour in 2020, and subsequent annual increases will be at the rate of inflation, not to exceed 2.5 percent. The suburbs will be a year behind the city, which will reach $13 an hour by July 2019. An amended version of the county bill removed provisions that increased the tipped minimum hourly wage by $1. According to the updated bill, tipped workers, who make $4.95 under Illinois law, will see their wages rise with the rate of inflation starting July 1, 2018, not to exceed 2.5 percent. The Cook County ordinance allows local municipalities to opt out if they so choose. To date, only Barrington has opted out.

Overtime Changes: Effective December 1, 2016, massive changes to the country’s overtime laws were to take place. Chief among these changes was the requirement raising the rate of pay to be exempt from overtime from the current $23,159 all the way up to $47,XXX. Currently, these new regulations have been put on hold as the courts wrestle with the constitutionality of the Department of Labor to implement these changes. The matter is currently winding through the courts, with a resolution expected in early to mid February of 2017. Regardless of the outcome, it is a certainty that the floor for overtime compensation will be rising dramatically very soon.

Freedom from Restrictive Covenants: In a first of its kind measure in the nation, Illinois has passed the Freedom to Work Act, effective January 1, 2017, severely limiting the rights of an employer to place post employment restrictive covenants on “low wage workers.” Illinois’ new law applies only to “low wage” employees, who are defined as those earning the greater of:

$7.25/hour (Federal minimum wage); or Illinois new law

$8.25/hour (Illinois minimum wage); or

$10.50/hour (Current minimum wage in City of Chicago); or


Under the new law, covenants not to compete for low wage employees are prohibited where they prohibit a low wage employee from: (a) working for another employer for a specified period of time; (b) working in a specified geographical area; or ( c) engaging in similar work for another employer.

Very significantly, the new Act does not prohibit an employer from enforcing agreements to protect confidential information and trade secrets. Additionally, the Act does not restrict an employer from placing prohibitions on a former employee’s ability to solicit otherwise protected business relationships (i.e. solicitation of former customers or employees).

The Illinois law is in direct response to a growing trend to protect low wage employees from being able to secure new employment. For years, fast food sub shop Jimmy Johns required its employees who made sandwiches, to sign non-compete agreements. Jimmy Johns ultimately did not enforce the agreements, but many former employees may have felt trapped in their future job searches. Jimmy Johns was sued for deceptive trade practices and ultimately settled. Additionally, the Obama administration has been increasingly critical of restrictive covenants finding them to be an impediment to business.

Under the new Illinois Act, an employee is able to petition the courts for declaratory relief when there is a judiciable controversy over their own non-compete agreement.

Restrictions on Employer Access to Personal Online Accounts: Since 2012 employers have been prohibited from requiring employees to provide their passwords to social networking sites. Effective January 1, 2017, amendments to this law also prohibit an employer from engaging in other activity related to employees’ “personal online accounts,” which are defined as online accounts that are used primarily for personal purposes. The prohibited activity includes:

  • requesting, requiring, or coercing an employee or applicant to authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to invite the employer to join a group affiliated with the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to join an online account established by the employer or add the employer or an employment agency to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts that enable the contacts to access the employee or applicant’s personal online account;
  • discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for refusing to engage in the above-referenced activity or for filing a complaint concerning an employer’s violation of these requirements; and
  • failing or refusing to hire an applicant who refuses to provide certain information relating to his or her personal online account.


Notably, the law expressly allows employers to require an employee or applicant to share specific content from a personal online account that has been reported to the employer (without requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to provide a username or password) in certain situations, including investigating an alleged violation of law or work-related employee misconduct. The law also provides a “safe harbor” for situations where an employer’s otherwise lawful technology that monitors an employer’s network for network security or data confidentiality purposes receives information that allows an employer to access a personal online account.

With over 30 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us through our website.


Featured image of this blog post is Copyright: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apple-computer-device-laptop-267784/


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