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Employment Laws in Illinois

Filed under Office & HR.

Employers in Illinois must conform to these state rules relating to the employment relationship.

Employee includes any person performing services for remuneration within Illinois for an employer, an apprentice and an applicant for employment.

Employee does not include:

  • domestic servants in private homes
  • a person in a vocational rehabilitation facility certified under federal law who has been designated an evacuee, trainee or work activity client

Employer includes persons employing 15 or more employees in Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

Employer also includes any party to a public contract or a joint apprenticeship or training committee without regard to the number of employees.

For purposes of discrimination based on physical or mental handicap unrelated to ability, or for a sexual harassment complaint, an employer is any person employing one or more employee.

For purposes of equal pay, employer includes those who gainfully employ four or more employees in Illinois.

Employer does not include any religious corporation, association, educational institution, society or nonprofit nursing institution conducted by and for those who rely on treatment by prayer through spiritual means in accordance with the tenets of a recognized church or religious denomination with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on of its activities.

Prohibited Employment Discrimination

The Illinois Human Rights Act generally prohibits employment discrimination in the state.

Discrimination in employment practices against employees and job applicants is prohibited on the basis of:

  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • national origin
  • ancestry
  • age
  • marital status
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • physical or mental handicap
  • arrest record
  • unfavorable discharge from military service

Equal Pay Act of 2003. Gender-based wage discrimination is prohibited.

Citizenship. Making legitimate distinctions based on citizenship status is not prohibited if specifically authorized or required by law.

Genetic information. Employers are prohibited from requiring genetic information as a condition of employment, prospective employment, or in furtherance of a wellness program.

Smoking and use of lawful products. Employers may not discriminate in employment practices on the basis of employees' or job applicants' use of lawful products, including tobacco or alcohol, outside the workplace during nonworking hours.

An employer cannot discriminate against an individual in any manner because of the exercise of any rights afforded by the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Use of native language. It is a civil rights violation for employers to impose a restriction that has the effect of prohibiting a language from being spoken by an employee in communications that are unrelated to the employee's duties. For the purposes of this law, "language" means a person's native tongue, and does not include such things as jargon, profanity or vulgarity.

The Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act. Retail distributors of any targeted methamphetamine precursor are required to train sales employees on the subject.

Whistleblower protection. Retaliatory action, defined as the reprimand, discharge, suspension, demotion, or denial of promotion or change in the terms and conditions of employment, that is taken in retaliation because a person has opposed, reported, made a charge, filed a complaint, testified, assisted or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing involving the use of force or threat of imminent bodily harm to compel a confession or information regarding an offense is prohibited.

An employer may not knowingly discharge or in any other manner knowingly discriminate against an employee that has made a complaint that he or she has not been paid in accordance with the provisions of Illinois' wage payment law.

The Nursing Home Care Act provides whistleblower protections for facility employees.

Criminal history. Unless otherwise authorized by law, it is a civil rights violation for an employer to inquire into or to use evidence of an arrest or criminal history record information that has been ordered expunged, sealed or impounded under the Criminal Identification Act as a basis to refuse to hire, or to act with respect to promotion, renewal of employment, discharge, discipline, or conditions of employment. This provision does not prevent employers from utilizing conviction information obtained from the Department of State Police in evaluating the qualifications and character of an employee or prospective employee.

Order of protection status. It is unlawful to discriminate against an individual on the basis of order of protection status in connection with employment, real estate transactions, access to financial credit, and the availability of public accommodations. Order of protection status means a person's status as being a person protected under an order of protection issued pursuant to the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 or an order of protection issued by the court of another state.

Service providers. It is not a civil rights violation for a medical, dental, or other health care professional or a private professional service provider, such as a lawyer, accountant, or insurance agent to refer or refuse to treat or provide services to an individual in a protected class for any non-discriminatory reason if, in the normal course of his or her operations or business, the professional would for the same reason refer or refuse to treat or provide services to an individual who is not in the protected class of the individual who seeks or requires the same or similar treatment or services.

Identity Protection Act. The Identity Protection Act provides that a person, state or local government agency must redact social security numbers from information or documents containing all or any portion of an individual's social security number.

Employee Credit Privacy Act. The Employee Credit Privacy Act prohibits employers from using a person's credit history to make employment, recruiting, compensation or discharge decisions.

Civil unions. The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act permits same-sex couples to enter into a civil union and affords them the same state rights and protections already entitled to married couples.

Military service. Employers may not discriminate against individuals because of their military status or unfavorable discharge from military service. Effective January 1, 2012, military status includes status as a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, or Illinois Army or Air National Guard.

Social media access. Effective January 1, 2013, employers are prohibited from requesting an applicant's or employee's social network account information in order to access their account or profile.

Effective January 1, 2014, the bar against employer requests for information about an employee’s social networking profile or website applies only to the employee’s personal account.

Medicinal marijuana use. Effective January 1, 2014, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an applicant or employee solely on the basis of the applicant's or employee's status as a medicinal marijuana patient or caregiver, unless failing to do so would put the employer in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or rules.

Employers are not prohibited from adopting reasonable regulations concerning the consumption, storage, or timekeeping requirements for qualifying patients related to the use of medical cannabis. Employers are not prohibited from enforcing a policy concerning drug testing, zero-tolerance, or a drug free workplace provided the policy is applied in a nondiscriminatory manner. Employers are not limited under the law from disciplining a registered qualifying patient for violating a workplace drug policy, and the law does not limit an employer's ability to discipline an employee for failing a drug test if failing to do so would put the employer in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a federal contract or funding.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must preserve and maintain the following employment and personnel records, to the extent that they exist, for the periods indicated:

  • applications, resumes, interview forms, aptitude or qualifying examinations, personal history or background examination reports, medical history and physical exam reports, and other documents pertaining to each applicant, for one year from the date of application
  • each employee's personnel file, including performance evaluations, attendance/tardiness records, reprimands and disciplinary records, suspension, layoff, termination or resignation records, for one year from the date of termination from employment
  • all job descriptions, production standards and other records of required job duties, qualifications and performance criteria, for one year following the date they cease to be effective

Posting Requirements

As relief or a penalty for a civil rights violation, an employer may be directed to post in a conspicuous place notices setting forth requirements for compliance with the Human Rights Act or other relevant information that the Commission determines necessary.

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