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  • Writer's pictureJulie A. Cardosi

New Illinois and Federal Employment-Related Laws Impacting Dealers

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Illinois welcomed the dawn of the 2020 decade with a host of new state and federal laws impacting Illinois businesses, including dealerships. Elected Illinois officials were busy last year enacting new sets of requirements effective January 1, 2020, that impact Illinois dealers as employers. This is in addition to a multitude of new Illinois taxes and fee increases effective January 1 impacting dealership customers in areas of registration, parking, gas, and selling their vehicles. Apart from the doubling of the gas tax, dealership customers face fee increases for standard and electric vehicles and a $10,000 cap on tax credits for their trade-ins. In fact, for 2020, there’s a reported 250 new taxes. Below is a sampling of some of these new laws. The list is not exhaustive however, dealers are urged to consult with their private attorneys to ensure their compliance. Dealers who have not updated their employment practices and policies to address these new laws should do so posthaste. US Department of Labor Changes Overtime Exemption The number of “Executive, Administrative, and Professional” employees and “Highly Compensated” employees who qualify for overtime pay changed as of January 1st. Previously, certain executive, administrative, professional, and computer employees (“EAP employees”), including managers and assistant managers, among other employees, who earned more than $455 per week ($23,660 per year) were not entitled to overtime compensation for work in excess of 40 hours per week. Under the change, EAP employees are not exempt from overtime compensation unless they earn at least $684 per week ($35,568 per year), and the overtime exemption changed for “highly compensated employees” raising the salary threshold from $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year. Dealership pay plans should be reviewed to ensure overtime exempt employees will continue to qualify for the foregoing exemptions. Illinois Employment Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Employers’ obligations are also significantly impacted relative to employment discrimination and sexual harassment. These changes limit the use of employment policies or other agreements, such as non-disclosure agreements, arbitration clauses, and non-disparagement clauses, to prevent an employee from reporting sexual harassment for cases involving harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The new law seeks to regulate employer practices to ensure employees are not forced to accept contract provisions that would make them vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Highlights of this law include: • Makes harassment against contract employees illegal; • Clarifies that it’s illegal to discriminate against an employee if that employee is perceived to be part of a protected class, even if he/she is not; • Expands the Victims Economic Security & Safety Act to allow victims of gender violence to take unpaid leave from work to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning and other assistance; • Prevents a union representative from representing both a victim of sexual harassment and the alleged harasser in a disciplinary proceeding; • Requires employers to disclose the number of final adverse administrative or judicial decisions of sexual harassment and discrimination against them to the Department of Human Rights; • Requires employers to annually train their employees on preventing sexual harassment.

Illinois Minimum Wage Increase The Illinois minimum wage increased effective January 1, 2020 and will continue to increase to $15 an hour by 2025 and $13 for those under 18 by 2025. Teen wage is determined as under the age of 18 and working less than 650 hours per calendar year. Below are the scheduled increases. Date of Change/Minimum Wage/Teen Wage 1/1/20 $9.25 $8.00 7/1/20 $10.00 NA 1/1/21 $11.00 $8.50 1/1/22 $12.00 $9.25 1/1/23 $13.00 $10.50 1/1/24 $14.00 $12.00 1/1/25 $15.00 $13.00 Legalization of Recreational Use of Cannabis The recreational use of marijuana has been legalized. This new law presents significant challenges to Illinois employers legally required to provide a safe working environment for all employees, including workplace accidents. The law allows Illinois residents and non-residents who are over 21 years old to purchase and use cannabis legally subject to quantity and other restrictions. While employers may enforce drug testing policies, including zero tolerance and drug free workplace; and may prohibit employees from using, possessing or being impaired while in the workplace, performing their jobs or while on call, there are certain limitations, that employers with the guidance of legal counsel, must take into consideration.

Other Employment-Related Changes As 2020 ushered in, so did changes to: the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting employers from practices related to wage history screening; the Illinois Human Rights Act further regulating the use of arrest information in the employment process by expanding the definition of an “arrest record”; the School Visitation Rights Act to prohibit (effective Aug. 1 2020) terminating an employee solely for an absence from work for attendance at a school conference, behavioral meeting, or academic meeting; the Organ Donor Leave Act to prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee for requesting or obtaining a leave of absence to donate blood, an organ, or bone marrow. Ensure dealership practices and policies are updated to be in compliance with all the new 2020 changes.

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