Category Archives: employers

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Decision Providing Discrimination Protections to LGBTQ Workers

Contributed by John Hayes, June 15, 2020

Judge’s Supreme Court gavel with law books

On June 15, 2020 the United States Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination. The decision consolidated three cases where the employees were terminated from their jobs: two separate cases involving the terminations of gay employees; and one case involving the termination of a transgender employee.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justice Alito wrote a dissent joined by Justice Thomas, and Justice Kavanaugh wrote a separate dissent.

Title VII bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. The question for the justices was whether discrimination “because of sex” applies to gay and transgender workers. While most federal appeals courts interpreted Title VII to exclude sexual orientation discrimination, both the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (in New York) and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (in Chicago) had previously ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination. 

Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch stated:

An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

… 

In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee.  We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.

Currently 22 states, including Illinois, have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  While these laws remain in force, the Supreme Court’s ruling means federal law now provides similar protections for LGBTQ employees in the rest of the country.

Employers throughout the United States must now be aware that federal employment law (noting that Title VII covers only employers with 15 or more employees) prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender employees. The upside is that employers will no longer have to navigate inconsistent laws that vary from state to state and it will also likely make employee training easier and more consistent for employers operating in multiple states. Employers should update their discrimination and harassment policies to make sure gay and transgender employees are included in anti-discrimination protections.

It should also be noted that, for most employers, attempting to justify an employment action against gay or transgender employees on religious grounds will not be a successful avenue of defense.  The so-called “ministerial exemption” is very narrowly tailored to cover only churches and religious institutions, and applies only to employees performing a “ministerial” role within the institution.   

The takeaway for the vast majority of employers is that it is now crystal clear that Title VII’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex include gay and transgender individuals. 

Reminder for Chicago Employers: Fair Workweek Ordinance Compliance Begins July 1

Contributed by Peter Hansen, May 28, 2020

calendar on white background. 1 july. 3d illustration.

Chicago employers take note – beginning July 1, 2020, you may be required to post work schedules at least 10 days in advance in order to comply with the Fair Workweek Ordinance. This seems like as good a time as any for a refresher on the Ordinance.

Are We Subject to the Ordinance?

Generally, employers must comply with the Ordinance if they meet each of the below conditions:

  • They employ 100+ employees (both inside and outside of Chicago) or, for non-profit corporations, 250+ employees;
  • They employ 50+ employees who spend the majority of their time at work in Chicago and earn $50,000 or less if salaried / $26.00 per hour if hourly; and
  • They are primarily engaged in one of the following industries: building services; healthcare; hotels; manufacturing; restaurants; retail; and warehouse services.

What About Union Workers?  

Employers subject to any existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) need not comply with portions of the Ordinance that conflict with the CBA as to the particular bargaining unit. However, any CBA entered into after July 1, 2020 must explicitly waive the Ordinance’s requirements “in clear and unambiguous terms” in order to avoid compliance through the collective bargaining process.

What Does the Ordinance Require?

The Ordinance places a number of requirements on employers, including:

  • Providing new employees with a written estimate of days and hours of work within 90 days of their start of employment;
  • Posting a written work schedule at least 10 days in advance for employees who earn $50,000 or less / $26.00 per hour or less;
  • Paying employees 1 hour of “predictability pay” for each shift change that occurs after the 10 day schedule notice;
  • Offering additional shifts to existing part-time employees first, then to full-time employees, then to temporary/seasonal workers; and
  • Providing at least 10 hours of rest between shifts, unless the employee consents to a shorter rest period in writing and is paid at least 1.25 times their regular rate of pay for the shift.

Additionally, employers must both post and provide notice of the Ordinance to all covered employees with their first paycheck on or following July 1, 2020.

But Wait, What About COVID-19?

Given COVID-19’s far-reaching impact, Chicago employers may have assumed that the city would delay enforcing the Ordinance. This is not the case, however: the city made it clear that the Ordinance’s schedule change provisions apply unless COVID-19 caused the employer “to materially change its operating hours, operating plan, or the goods or services provided by the Employer, which results in the Work Schedule change.”  This limited exception should be relied upon sparingly.

The city also delayed private employees’ right to file a lawsuit pertaining to alleged violations to January 1, 2021; however, the city can still enforce the Ordinance and issue fines – which could range from $300 to $500 per day, per employee.

This is a somewhat complicated topic, so any employers who are unsure of their covered status and/or how to comply on the most practical level possible should contact experienced labor & employment law counsel.

Illinois Department of Human Rights Issues Model Sexual Harassment Training

Contributed by Peter Hansen, May 6, 2020

notebook and computer

Recent changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) require all Illinois employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees by December 31, 2020, and once per year thereafter – and tasked the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) with creating a model sexual harassment training program employers could use to meet that requirement. After several delays, the IDHR released its model sexual harassment prevention training program along with an FAQ. Now that we have the IDHR’s model training, all Illinois employers should begin planning on how they will administer the training to all employees – including part-time employees, short-term or temporary employees, interns, and so on – especially since the IDHR announced that it will not extend the December 31, 2020 deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minimum Standards

Employers may wish to develop or continue using their own anti-harassment training, especially if it covers more than just sexual harassment prevention. They are free to do so, provided the training includes the following:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the IHRA;
  • Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  • A summary of relevant state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • A summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

Illinois restaurants and bars have additional obligations, including an explanation of the internal complaint process available to employees and information on how to contact and file a charge with the IDHR and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Otherwise, as long as the training is accessible for employees with disabilities or with limited English proficiency, there is no required format. The training may be live or recorded, there is no minimum or maximum duration, and it need not be interactive.

Recordkeeping

Employers must keep records demonstrating compliance with the sexual harassment prevention training requirement, either electronically or in paper format. The records should, at a minimum, include:

  • Names of the employees who received training;
  • Training date and location;
  • Sign-in worksheets, signed employee acknowledgements, certificate of participation, etc.;
  • A copy of all written/recorded materials used in the training; and
  • The name of the trainer.

What to do When Your Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Contributed by John Hayes, April 30, 2020

clip board and stethoscope conceptual illustration

With the constantly shifting state and local stay-at-home orders and the potential relaxing of these orders on the horizon, the question for employers still remains: What do we do if an employee has COVID-19? 

Once an employer receives a report that an employee has tested positive for or is presumed to have COVID-19, the employer should do the following:

  • Instruct the infected employee to stay home for the longer of the period of time recommended by his or her health care provider or the applicable health department or until 1) at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications AND improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and 2) at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. Employers may not disclose the identity of the employee diagnosed with or presumed to have COVID-19. Employers are also required to maintain the privacy of any health information they gather related to an employee’s medical condition or their symptoms, and any such documentation should be kept in a private health folder, separate from the employee’s personnel file, with limited access by only critical human resource staff.
  • Interview the infected employee to determine all co-workers, clients, vendors, or guests with whom the employee may have come into close contact during the 14-day period prior to the positive test or presumption of being positive for COVID-19 (the “Incubation Period”). “Close contact” means being within six feet of the sick employee for a prolonged period (10-30 minutes). The employee should also be asked to identify all areas within the workplace where he or she was physically present during the past 14 days and any employees with whom he or she shared a workspace or equipment. (The local health department may conduct this interview and provide the employer with this information.)
  • Contact directly each close contact and each co-worker who shared a workspace with the sick employee and advise that a person with whom they have been in recent contact and/or with whom they recently shared a common work area has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Instruct them that they are to remain out of the office for at least 14 days since the last contact with the infected employee and to work remotely, if possible. The co-workers should be encouraged to self-isolate and seek all medical care and testing that they feel may be appropriate. (The local health department may order the employees to be off work and inform the employer that it has done so.) It should also be noted that pursuant to recent CDC guidelines, under certain circumstances, an employer may allow an employee who is asymptomatic but was exposed to return to work.
  • Consider notifying clients, vendors and/or guests who may have been exposed to the diagnosed employee, while maintaining confidentiality.
  • Consider the wage and hour issues, such as mandatory paid sick leave, if the infected employee and close contacts are not able to work remotely and communicate the pay policies to employees pursuant to the FFCRA. 
  • Consider issuing a general notice to the workforce that an employee has tested positive for or is presumed to have COVID-19 (without identifying the employee). Any such notice should reassure employees that, unless the employee has been notified directly by the employer, the employee is not believed to have been in close contact with or shared a common workspace with the infected employee. Employees should be told all the steps the employer is taking to ensure their safety and should be advised to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and reminded not to come to work if they are sick.
  • Shut down those areas of the workplace identified by the infected employee as areas that he or she used until those areas can be cleaned in accordance with CDC guidelines.

While employers may require a doctor’s note permitting an employee to return to work after recovering from COVID-19 or being mandatorily quarantined, such a requirement may not be practical. Acceptable alternatives include relying on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have COVID-19.

State, federal, and local discrimination laws remain in place and apply to harassment related to COVID-19, which may take the form of race and national origin harassment. Employers should inform all employees that such harassment will not be tolerated.

Employers should take action immediately in response to an employee who reports a positive test for or a presumption of COVID-19. Employers should be flexible and efficient in order to maintain a safe workplace and allow the focus to be on the work of the company going forward. 

CDC Issues New Relaxed Guidelines for Safety Practices for Essential Workers Potentially Exposed to COVID-19

Contributed by John Hayes, April 10, 2020

An important question for employers in essential industries is whether its employees should come to work after potential exposure to COVID-19.  The previous guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommended employees stay home for 14 days after exposure.  However, late on April 8, 2020 the CDC issued new guidelines — abandoning the former restrictions — for employers of critical infrastructure workers in essential sectors such as health care, manufacturing, food and agriculture, information technology, and transportation.  The CDC guidance is designed to educate employers on the procedures to follow in allowing employees to return to work after having been exposed to the COVID-19, and to get employees in essential sectors back to work sooner rather than later.   

The CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue to work, or return to work, following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented by the employer.  Specifically, the CDC says employers should adhere to the following practices when an employee has been potentially exposed to COVID-19 (a potential exposure means a household contact or having close contact within six feet of an individual that has confirmed or suspected COVID-19, up to 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic):

  • Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  • Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  • Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  • Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.
  • Implement the CDC’s prior guidance for employers to plan and respond to COVID-19: Among other recommendations, increase air exchange in the workplace. 

The CDC further recommends that if the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be immediately sent home and surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected pursuant to CDC guidelines.  Information on persons who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms should be compiled.  Others at the facility with close contact within 6 feet of the employee during this time would be considered exposed.

This is just the first step the federal government is taking towards reopening the country, and is only a small part in the ever-evolving guidance to employers from the CDC.  Employers of workers in an essential business sector should be mindful of these new guidelines issued by the CDC for both the safety of its workforce and potential pitfalls of allowing, or not allowing, an employee potentially exposed to COVID-19 to come to work.  We will continue to monitor this very fluid situation and issue updates here as soon as things change.

My Employee is Subject to a “Shelter-in-Place” Order – What Do I Do Now?

Contributed by Carlos Arévalo, March 20, 2020

As we continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with potentially more drastic measures being imposed by health officials, the question becomes what is the impact on employers if a shelter-in-place order is issued. The answer:  it depends on the order.

In response to the crisis, a number of states, counties and cities have imposed or are considering shelter-in-place orders. Generally, a shelter-in-place order means that individuals must stay in their residences and not leave “unless necessary for one of the designated exceptions.” The purpose of such orders is to contain the spread of the virus by minimizing interaction between individuals to only those activities that are absolutely necessary.  Such orders, as adopted or under consideration by various jurisdictions, do not appear to compel full out seclusion and isolation or to prohibit the public from venturing outside their homes. The City of San Francisco, on March 16, 2020, issued the first shelter-in-place order. California, in the first state-wide measure, followed suit last night extending local measures to its 40 million residents. A similar measure was also adopted last night in Pennsylvania where Governor Tom Wolf announced that all but “life sustaining” businesses in the state were ordered to shut down (Pennsylvania’s measure does contain a very specific list of affected businesses by industry and sector). While the terms of such orders will vary, they contain exceptions for “essential services” impacting a number of critical infrastructure sectors.

By way of illustration, the City of San Francisco’s measure had health officials issue an order that generally directed the public to stay in their homes except for the following:

1.      To provide or receive essential services;

2.      To engage in essential activities; and

3.      To work in essential businesses and government services.

Measures that followed elsewhere similarly include terms like “essential services”, “essential activities” and/or “essential business and government services.”  These terms are specifically defined and must be reviewed to determine whether or not your employees will be able to make it to work. In the San Francisco order “essential activities” incorporate activities or tasks essential to health and safety. Examples of this include going to the doctor, buying food or medicine, obtaining supplies to work from home, or performing work for “essential businesses” that provide “essential services.”  “Essential businesses” include health care providers, grocery stores or other food producing/retail establishments (restaurants are generally limited to take out/curb side), gas stations, banks, and even professional services that support the legally mandated activities of essential businesses. Certainly, protective services and first responders are also engaged in essential services so they are not going to be limited. Finally, orders also address “essential travel”, which generally consists of going to/coming from work, the doctor, or any destination where essential services will be procured.

Bottom line, individuals should be able to go to work provided their employers are engaged in an essential business or government service or in support of such businesses or services. While “shelter-in-place” orders may differ from one jurisdiction to another and may be more restrictive depending on your location, the objective is still containment of the virus. Thus, your employees should be able to come to work, go home at the end of the day and even stop at the store for groceries or other essentials.  But they will not be able to go out to dinner, hang out at a bar for drinks or engage in any entertainment or social activities with lots of people around them. 

As with all matters involving COVID-19, this is a fluid situation with frequent, if not daily, developments. These may involve not just “shelter-in-place” orders, but other health official directives that must be carefully reviewed to ensure compliance. We will continue to monitor and update as needed.

COVID-19 Webinar Series: The Latest Local, State and Federal Mandates Impacting the Workplace

What the W-4 is that? Answers to Your Questions about the New W-4

Contributed by Michael Wong, January 8, 2020

The process of filling out the W-4 form, shallow depth of field

Following the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which made major changes affecting taxpayer withholding, the IRS announced it would be redesigning Form W-4. The new W-4 has officially been released, creating confusion and questions (at the time of this article the new federal 2020 W-4 can be found on the IRS website).

First and foremost, employers do NOT need to get all employees to sign a new W-4. According to IRS Publication 15, employers are to remind employees before December 1 each year to submit a new W-4 form if their withholding allowances have changed or will change for the next year. If the employee does not submit a new W-4 form, the company must continue to withhold taxes pursuant to the last valid W-4 that was provided. If the employee has not ever submitted a valid W-4, the company must withhold tax as if the employee is single with no other adjustments.

So, again, just because there is a new W-4 form (that looks drastically different), you do not have to have all of your current employees fill out a new W-4. A W-4 previously filled out by an employee will continue to be good until the employee decides to change their withholdings. The only exception is employees who claim to be exempt from any withholdings (i.e. no taxes withheld at all from wages). As addressed below, employees must complete a new W-4 annually to maintain a full exemption

Employers should ensure that new W-4s are used as follows:

  • New employees. All new employees hired or paid in 2020 are required to use the current year’s W-4 form and applicable state W-4. 
  • Employees who want to change their withholdings. Life can sometimes change quickly, if something happens during the year and an employee wants to change his or her exemptions, adjustments, withholdings or credits, the employee will need to fill out a the new W-4 form and applicable state W-4.  Note, an employee is permitted to complete a W-4 anytime, not only when a major life event happens — this could be as simple as the employee realizing that instead of getting a refund, he or she wants to stop providing an interest free loan to the government.
  • Employees claiming exemption from withholding. All W-4s claiming an individual is exempt from any taxes being withheld expire on February 16th each year. This means, that any employee claiming to be exempt from withholdings, should be reminded to turn in a new W-4 (using the new form) by February 15th and advised that if they do not submit a new W-4, you are required to withhold taxes based on the last W-4 in which the employee did not claim to be exempt or, if the employee has always claimed a complete exemption, the employee will be treated as being single with no other adjustments.

To help employees (and you) the IRS has created an Estimator to help employees determine what they should put on their W-4 at www.irs.gov/W4App

Finally, W-4s have to be filled out for all non-U.S. Citizens (“Aliens”). Resident Aliens should be treated the same as U.S. Citizens when filling out the new W-4. Nonresident aliens should be provided the Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident Aliens, which provides:

  • Non-Resident Aliens cannot claim they are exempt from income tax withholding;
  • Non-Resident Aliens must request withholding as if they are “Single”, even if he or she is married;
  • Nonresident Aliens must still provide a SSN, they cannot enter an ITIN on Line 2.
  • Only certain nonresident aliens who are residents of Canada, Mexico, South Korea, or India may be eligible to claim an additional allowance for the child tax credit. To claim the child tax credit your child must have an SSN valid for employment issued prior to the due date of your tax return (including extensions).
  • Write “Nonresident Alien” or “NRA” in the space below Step 4(c) of Form W-4.

So, while the changes in the tax code and W-4 are championed as creating more transparency and simplifying the accuracy and simplicity of the W-4 form, as with all change it will initially create more confusion and panic, just like Y2K. But don’t worry, 2020 is just the beginning to another new decade.

2020: AN HR ODYSSEY – ILLINOIS ENACTS THE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE VIDEO INTERVIEW ACT

Contributed by Michael J. Faley, November 26, 2019

AI conceptual in business technology, artificial inteligence concept

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000, a fictional artificial intelligence machine, helps guide a space mission to Jupiter, but through the course of the film is revealed to be a villainous presence. Fast forward 50 years and, although artificial intelligence (AI) has yet to lead a crew of astronauts to Jupiter, AI now pervades our lives in many seen and unseen ways, including employment recruiting. For example, AI commonly helps companies sort through voluminous resumes to identify qualified candidates. By some estimates, roughly 40 percent of employers have included AI in the hiring process.

Most recently, AI “interview bots” have become a popular tool in HR departments. They utilize different algorithms and methods to evaluate a candidate’s facial expressions, body language, word choice and tone among other factors to create a candidate profile or provide feedback to the employer. While HAL has not reached the workplace just yet, AI interview bots have raised some concerns particularly in Illinois.                      

Effective January 1, 2020, Illinois will regulate AI interviewing programs through the first-of-its-kind Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act, 820 ILCS 42/5. An employer that asks applicants to record video interviews and uses AI analysis when considering applicants for positions based in Illinois must take steps before asking applicants to submit to the video interviews. The employer must:

(1) Notify each applicant before the interview that AI may be used to analyze the applicant’s video interview and consider the applicant’s fitness for the position.

(2) Provide each applicant with information before the interview explaining how the AI works and what general types of characteristics it uses to evaluate applicants.

(3) Obtain, before the interview, consent from the applicant to be evaluated by the AI program.

An employer may not use AI to evaluate applicants who have not consented to the use of AI analysis and may only share a video interview with persons whose expertise or technology are necessary to assess the applicant’s fitness for a position. The video interview also must be destroyed within 30 days upon request of the applicant. However, the new law leaves some questions unanswered, including what exactly qualifies as AI and what are the specific consequences for a violation.

Illinois has emerged as something of a leader in workplace technology laws, now regulating both AI and the use of employee biometric information. It is perhaps appropriate given HAL’s fictional creation at the University of Illinois. Illinois employers that utilize these technologies in the workplace need to stay attuned to the recent regulatory developments before they create very real legal headaches.      

BREAKING NEWS: Illinois Recreational Cannabis Law Protections for Employers & the Workplace Clarified!

Contributed by Jeffrey A. Risch, November 15, 2019As Illinois set out to become the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through statutory authority, the legislative intent for protections for employers and the workplace were intended to include some of the strongest in the nation. However, when the dust settled and the statutory framework was analyzed, there appeared to be room for reasonable minds to have differing opinions on what the law actually meant for the workplace.

22712583 - vector form icon

clipboard and pen.

On one hand, could employers lawfully implement reasonable, non-discriminatory drug testing policies aimed at prohibiting applicants and employees from lawfully using recreational cannabis and gaining or maintaining employment? On the other hand, would employers be violating the law if they did not hire someone who tested positive for THC or if they could not ultimately demonstrate that an employee was actually impaired while on the job? These sorts of questions lingered. A quick online search trying to find answers would only frustrate HR professionals, safety managers, and business owners further. Clarity was needed.Therefore, through the efforts of several business groups and trade associations (including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce) working across both political aisles, SB1557 passed the Illinois General Assembly on November 14, 2019. While SB1557 includes wrinkles for the licensing, manufacturing and distribution of recreational cannabis in Illinois, it also contains language found below designed to protect employers from litigation.In essence, the language attempts to clear up concern that an employer may have been required to show actual impairment in the workplace vs. simply being able to implement and follow a reasonable, non-discriminatory drug testing policy.   Specifically, Section 10-50 of the law will now read as follows (changes in bold):

(410 ILCS 705/10-50) Sec. 10-50. Employment; employer liability.(a) Nothing in this Act shall prohibit an employer from adopting reasonable zero tolerance or drug free workplace policies, or employment policies concerning drug testing, smoking, consumption, storage, or use of cannabis in the workplace or while on call provided that the policy is applied in a nondiscriminatory manner.(b) Nothing in this Act shall require an employer to permit an employee to be under the influence of or use cannabis in the employer’s workplace or while performing the employee’s job duties or while on call.(c) Nothing in this Act shall limit or prevent an employer from disciplining an employee or terminating employment of an employee for violating an employer’s employment policies or workplace drug policy.(d) An employer may consider an employee to be impaired or under the influence of cannabis if the employer has a good faith belief that an employee manifests specific, articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen the employee’s performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s job position, including symptoms of the employee’s speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, irrational or unusual behavior, or negligence or carelessness in operating equipment or machinery; disregard for the safety of the employee or others, or involvement in any accident that results in serious damage to equipment or property; disruption of a production or manufacturing process; or carelessness that results in any injury to the employee or others. If an employer elects to discipline an employee on the basis that the employee is under the influence or impaired by cannabis, the employer must afford the employee a reasonable opportunity to contest the basis of the determination.(e) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to create or imply a cause of action for any person against an employer for:

  1. actions taken pursuant to an employer’s reasonable workplace drug policy, including but not limited to subjecting an employee or applicant to reasonable drug and alcohol testing, reasonable and nondiscriminatory random drug testing, and discipline, termination of employment, or withdrawal of a job offer due to a failure of a drug test; , including but not limited to subjecting an employee or applicant to reasonable drug and alcohol testing under the employer’s workplace drug policy, including an employee’s refusal to be tested or to cooperate in testing procedures or disciplining or termination of employment;actions based on the employer’s good faith belief that an employee used or possessed cannabis in the employer’s workplace or while performing the employee’s job duties or while on call in violation of the employer’s employment policies;actions, including discipline or termination of employment, based on the employer’s good faith belief that an employee was impaired as a result of the use of cannabis, or under the influence of cannabis, while at the employer’s workplace or while performing the employee’s job duties or while on call in violation of the employer’s workplace drug policy; orinjury, loss, or liability to a third party if the employer neither knew nor had reason to know that the employee was impaired.

(f) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to enhance or diminish protections afforded by any other law, including but not limited to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act or the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.(g) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to interfere with any federal, state, or local restrictions on employment including, but not limited to, the United States Department of Transportation regulation 49 CFR 40.151(e) or impact an employer’s ability to comply with federal or state law or cause it to lose a federal or state contract or funding.(h) As used in this Section, “workplace” means the employer’s premises, including any building, real property, and parking area under the control of the employer or area used by an employee while in the performance of the employee’s job duties, and vehicles, whether leased, rented, or owned. “Workplace” may be further defined by the employer’s written employment policy, provided that the policy is consistent with this Section.(i) For purposes of this Section, an employee is deemed “on call” when such employee is scheduled with at least 24 hours’ notice by his or her employer to be on standby or otherwise responsible for performing tasks related to his or her employment either at the employer’s premises or other previously designated location by his or her employer or supervisor to perform a work-related task.

Additionally, much needed clarification for public employers was also included concerning how off duty use of cannabis by certain emergency personnel should be administered. The following was added to Section 10-35. Limitations and penalties:

(410 ILCS 705/10-35)(8) the use of cannabis by a law enforcement officer, corrections officer, probation officer, or firefighter while on duty; nothing in this Act prevents a public employer of law enforcement officers, corrections officers, probation officers, paramedics, or firefighters from prohibiting or taking disciplinary action for the consumption, possession, sales, purchase, or delivery of cannabis or cannabis-infused substances while on or off duty, unless provided for in the employer’s policies. However, an employer may not take adverse employment action against an employee based solely on the lawful possession or consumption of cannabis or cannabis-infused substances by members of the employee’s household. To the extent that this Section conflicts with any applicable collective bargaining agreement, the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall prevail. Further, nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit in any way the right to collectively bargain over the subject matters contained in this Act;

These changes help to better assure employers that they have the ability to implement fair, reasonable drug testing policies designed to protect their employees and the public. Recreational consumers will certainly have the legal right to use cannabis, but the employer should have the legal right to say “you better not have THC in your system to become or remain employed here.” Of course, any drug testing policy must be carefully vetted, designed, and implemented. After all, lawyers will be lawyers. 

While many questions still remain and medicinal usage requires a different analysis (for now) it appears employers can take better comfort and be more confident in creating policy designed to maintain a safe and healthy workplace through reasonable drug testing policies. However, employers must continue to carefully examine their own unique industry, risks and risk tolerances, together with their geographic footprint and applicant pool. The drug testing policy and drug-free workplace program for the “widget manufacturer” in Peoria is likely to be vastly different than that of the “accounting firm” in Schaumburg.