FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – New Illinois Laws Requiring Action

With New Years Day quickly approaching, it is important to keep in mind several laws that are changing or taking effect as of January 1, 2015.

Charitable IRA Transfers:

Affects: Individual Retirement Account owners

Action Required: If desirable, make non-taxable transfers to eligible charities before January 1.

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 extends a host of individual tax provisions, including non-taxable IRA transfers to eligible charities. Individual Retirement Account (IRA) owners who are age 70 ½ or older can make tax-free direct distributions of up to $100,000 per year from an IRA to a charity.  These distributions are outside the charitable contribution percentage limits because they are neither included in gross income nor claimed as a deduction on the taxpayer’s return.  The Act retroactively extends the provision allowing these transfer for one year so that charitable IRA transfers are non-taxable until January 1, 2015.

Pregnancy in Employment:

Affects: All Illinois employers with one worker or more

Action Required: Display new lunchroom poster, modify employee handbook, schedule confidential discussions with pregnant workers on the effect their pregnancy has on performance of the essential functions of the job.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women on account of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Essentially, for reasonable accommodation purposes, employers must treat pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions “like a disability.” An employer must provide a requested reasonable accommodation to a pregnant applicant or employee (full-time, part-time, or probationary), absent a showing of undue hardship on the ordinary operations of the employer. However, the law specifically prohibits an employer from requiring an individual to accept an accommodation the individual either did not request or chooses not to accept.

Examples of Accommodations: An employee and employer must engage in a timely, good faith, and meaningful exchange to determine effective reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations may include more frequent or longer bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, and breaks for periodic rest; private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding; seating; assistance with manual labor; light duty; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; the provision of an accessible worksite; acquisition or modification of equipment; job restructuring; a part-time or modified work schedule; appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; reassignment to a vacant position; time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth; and leave necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.

Employers are not required to create additional positions that the employer would not otherwise have created. The employer is also not required to discharge any employee, transfer any employee with more seniority, or promote any employee who is not qualified to perform the job, unless the employer does so or would do so to accommodate other classes of employees who need it.

Notices: Employers also must post a notice, prepared by the Department of Human Rights, summarizing the requirements of the law and information pertaining to filing a charge. The notice must be in a conspicuous location where notices to employees are customarily posted. A copy of the Pregnancy Rights Notice can be found on the Department’s website. Employers must also include information concerning an employee’s rights under the Act in any employee handbook.

Criminal History NOT A Job Disqualifier:

Affects: All Illinois employers with 15 or more workers

Action Required: Except for employers required by law not to employ workers with criminal histories, do not use criminal background checks until interview or conditional offer, and modify job applications to remove questions that ask about criminal history.

The newly enacted Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from considering a job applicant’s criminal background until the employer has extended an offer for an interview or a conditional job offer. These restrictions do not apply if the employer must exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from an applied-for position under federal or Illinois law. The law does not allow applicants themselves to sue, but provides the Illinois Department of Labor authority to investigate alleged violations.

Sex Harassment Protection for Unpaid Interns:

Affects: All Illinois employers

Action Required: Interns may bring charges for sexual harassment; training of managers accordingly

Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act expand the definition of “employee” as it relates to sexual harassment to include unpaid interns. The Act defines an unpaid intern as a person performing work under one of three circumstances: (1) where the employer is not committed to hiring the intern at the end of the internship; (2) where the employer and intern agree that the intern will not be paid; or (3) where the intern’s work supplements educational training, provides beneficial experience for the intern, does not displace regular employees, is performed under close supervision, or provides no immediate advantage to the employer.

Payroll Debit Card Use Permitted:

Affects: All Illinois employers

Action Required: None, unless payroll debit cards desirable

Amendments to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) for the first time permit employers to pay employees’ wages using payroll debit cards if they follow strict requirements on their use.

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