Illinois Employment Law Short Takes

Two important Illinois employment laws take effect on January 1, 2017: the Illinois Sick Leave Act and the Illinois Freedom to Work Act.

The Illinois Sick Leave Act
The Illinois Sick Leave Act, which does not require employers to provide personal sick leave, applies only to employers who provide personal sick leave benefits to their employees. The Act does not compel any employer to adopt personal sick leave benefits, even if that employer does not already have personal sick leave benefits in place.

Personal sick leave benefits are defined as time employees have accrued that is available for use to miss work due to personal illness, injury, or to attend medical appointments. For those employers who provide sick leave benefits, the Act requires employers to allow employees to use their sick leave benefits for the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent. Essentially, the Act allows an employee to use her or his personal sick leave benefits for the care of any of the family members listed above.

The Act allows employers to restrict the amount of sick leave time employees use to take care of family members to no more than half of the employee’s yearly sick leave benefits. Employers are precluded from denying an employee’s request to use personal sick leave benefits to care for a family member, nor may they discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or discriminate against employees for exercising their rights as granted by the Act.

The Illinois Freedom to Work Act
The Illinois Freedom to Work Act prevents private sector employers from requiring its low-wage employees to sign a “covenant not to compete” agreement. The Act comes on the heels of increased national attention to employers requiring low-wage workers to sign non-compete agreements. The Act defines a “low wage employee” as “an employee who earns the greater of (1) the hourly rate equal to the minimum wage required by the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage law or (2) $13.00 per hour.”

The Act defines a “covenant not to compete” as an agreement restricting an employee from working for another employer: (1) for a set time period; (2) in a defined geographic area; or (3) that offers work similar to the low-wage employee’s current employer. Employers should be aware that the Act considers any “covenant not to complete”, as defined under the Act, illegal and void. The Act fails to give direction as to how it will be applied to employer restrictive covenants related to employee or customer non-solicitation. Regardless, employers that have a blanket practice of requiring all their employees to sign non-compete and restrictive covenant agreements are advised to review those practices prior to January 1, 2017 and alter those non-compete agreements in violation of the Act.

This article is provided for general information and is not intended to serve as legal advice for a specific situation. The attorneys of Bea & VandenBerk are experienced in representing organizations in employment matters. If you are in need of specific advice or legal representation, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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