When the economic downturn occurred a few years ago, thousands of people throughout the United States, including Illinois, began to gather in rallies and protests over the economic divide that existed between them and the higher classes. These protests have led to movements here in Illinois and Chicago to raise the minimum wage for all workers. Here in Illinois, the majority of voters agreed in November that Illinois should pass a law to raise the state’s minimum wage over the next two years to $11 an hour. However, Chicago has taken the plan one step further to assist over 400,000 workers in the city who currently make $8.25 an hour. With the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city council has voted to raise Chicago’s wage to $13 an hour over the next four years. This year, workers’ wages will rise to $10 an hour, putting Chicagoans at a higher rate than other Americans. The mayor argues that this will give struggling workers the ability to meet the rising costs in living and hopefully encourage the state to follow the city’s example. Housing costs in Chicago is estimated to be 30 percent higher than in other cities and many live at or below the poverty line. Before the decisive vote, many people in Chicago were pushing for an increase to $15 an hour, which would put Chicago on an advanced track with Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco, California. The argument is that increasing the wage will make life better for everyone but small business owners in the city disagree. During the city council’s vote, small business owners stated that they believe raising the minimum wage will actually hurt the city, making it less attractive to companies. They argued that small businesses may find it impossible to meet the higher wage for their workers and leave Chicago for areas where the minimum wage is less. It is even believed that some businesses could be forced to close if they are unable to afford the higher wage for workers. While Chicago’s vote is good news to Chicagoans who support raising the wage, it has caused problems with the state legislature. Many are talking about taking away the city’s right to make that decision and businesses in Illinois are banding together to protect their interests in the matter. Currently, legislators are holding off a vote on state legislation that would raise the wage[READ MORE…]
Starting January 1, 2015, pregnant women in Illinois will have more protection in the workplace, thanks to a new bill passed by lawmakers this year. Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed House Bill 8 which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act, requiring state employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The bill was a collaborative effort between Gov. Quinn, Representative Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) to address the widespread problem of discrimination against pregnant women by employers. Under the new law, employers must give pregnant women more frequent bathroom breaks, a private non-bathroom space for breastfeeding, places where they can sit and rest, help with manual labor tasks, limits on lifting heavy objects and time to recover after giving birth. The new amendment also gives pregnant women protection from termination; employers must reinstate an employee to her original or equivalent position after the pregnancy unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would be an undue hardship. Similar to American Disability Act accommodations, if an employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the ordinary operation of the employer’s business, the employer does not have to provide it. However, the hardship must be either prohibitively expensive or disruptive to the employer. The new law mandates that the employee and employer engage in a timely and meaningful dialogue in order to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. The employer may require medical certification from the employee’s health care provider but that certification only includes a medical justification for the requested accommodation, a description of the reasonable accommodation required, the date(s) of the accommodation and the duration of the accommodation. The amendment applies to every employer in Illinois – not just those with 15 or more employees. It also prohibits employers from requiring pregnant employees to use an accommodation they didn’t specifically request, such as an assignment to light duty. Gov. Quinn points out that women should not be placed in a position where they either have to choose their job or the health of their baby. The bill is aimed at protecting mothers who are single parents and in the low-income bracket but will apply to every pregnant employee. As an employer, you should review, with your attorney, your policies on reasonable accommodations and medical certification, as well as your employee handbook and training for managers and supervisors. You must post a notice regarding[READ MORE…]
Have you ever been told you are not allowed to discuss your salary with co-workers? Many companies have polices that strictly prohibit it. Often a statement such as this appears in the employee handbook “Confidentiality of Salary and Benefit Information: Employees are prohibited from discussing their salary or wage levels and company benefits with other employees. Such information is confidential and may not be discussed in the workplace. Any employee violating this policy will be considered to have committed a breach of confidentiality and will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and possibly including termination of employment.” Colorado just became the fourth state to forbid employers to require that employees refrain from discussions about wages, and does not allow employers to require an employee to sign a waiver of their right to have such discussions. Illinois is among the three other states that have laws in place that protect a worker’s right to discuss their wages, along with California and Michigan. The Illinois Equal Pay Act states that it is unlawful for any employer to discharge or discriminate against any employee for talking about, comparing, or discussing their wages or the wages of any other employee (820 ILCS 112/10(b). Illinois also has a web page titled The Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal which allows anyone to view state employees’ and individual consultants’ gross pay. The National Labor Relations Act Section 7 (29 U.S.C. § 157), also states that all employees have the right to “engage in concerted activities”, including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with one another other. Employers do have the right to disallow employees from having those discussions during the times they are supposed to be working but an employer cannot prohibit pay discussions, while allowing other types of conversations unrelated to work. Rather than being concerned that employees will uncover unfair or uneven salaries, it is far better that employers actively promote their practice’s regarding promotion, pay increases, and benefits.
Summer is here and many teens are receiving their first paychecks. As a parent there are a few things that you should be aware of regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which regulates hours and standards for minors. Minors over 15 and under 18 years of age may be employed for unlimited hours in occupations that are not deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor such as manufacturing explosives or operating power-driven machinery. The Illinois Child Labor Act regulates the employment of children under 15. During their summer break from school, 14 and 15 year old teens may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. for up to 48 hours per week. They cannot work in any place that serves liquor, at gas stations, in dry cleaners or at construction sites. They are not allowed to operate amusement park rides or use any power driven machinery. Most jobs are not available for children under the age of 14 but they can find work babysitting, delivering newspapers, caddying at a golf course or working with youth in sports activities. As a parent, you can teach your child good safety practices as well as good work habits. Be proactive and find out what type of training is available from their prospective employer. Help to make your teens’ first summer job a positive experience.
Veterans and military personnel face a number of issues when returning to civilian life.Â The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law designed to protect military personnel with respect to their civilian careers.Â Specifically, the Act intends to ensure that military personnel (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their military service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from military duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. Reemployment Rights USERRA provides military personnel with the right to be reemployed in their civilian job if he or she leaves the job to serve in the military.Â In order to be protected, the employee must: Notify his or her employer in advance â€“ either verbally or in writing â€“ of his or her military service; Have five years or less of cumulative military service while employed with the particular employer; Return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after the conclusion of military service; and Have not received a dishonorable discharge (or other disqualifying condition). If the employee is eligible to be reemployed, he or she must be restored to the job (or a comparable job) and benefits that he or she would have attained if the military service had not disrupted employment. Freedom from Discrimination and Retaliation If an employee is a past or present member of the military service, has applied for membership in the military, or is obligated to serve in the military, an employer may not deny reemployment, retention in employment, promotion or any benefits of employment because of his or her military status.Â Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against anyone (whether military personnel or not) that pursues the enforcement of USERRA rights, such as testifying in connection with a USERRA proceeding or filing a USERRA complaint. USERRA Violations If you believe that your USERRA rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment & Training Service (DOL-VETS).Â The Second Circuit recently determined in Serricchio v. Wachovia Securities, LLC that Wachovia had violated USERRA by failing to reinstate Serricchio, a financial advisor for Wachovia who had been in active duty with the Air Force for two years, for nearly four months after this request for reinstatement.Â When Wachovia ultimately offered him[READ MORE…]
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