Wednesday, June 19, 2019

HR Legislative Update Covering: Lactation Room, Nursing Mothers, Severance & EMS Rest Exclusion

Several new laws have taken effect in the last year that affect Public Employers primarily.  Please review this legislative update carefully and contact me for any further information you may need to ensure compliance.

P.A. 100-0947 (January 1, 2019) – This Act amends the Counties Code to require that on or before June 1, 2019, every facility that houses a circuit court room shall include at least one lactation room or area for members of the public to express breast milk in private that is located outside the confines of a restroom and includes, at minimum, a chair, table, electrical outlet, and a sink with running water where possible.  This room may be the same space provided to employees. The legislation further requires the Supreme Court to create minimum standards for posting and training of courthouse staff. Construction or renovation of a court facility after June 1, 2019 shall include at least one lactation room or area that is located outside the confines of a restroom and includes, at a minimum, a chair, a table, an electrical outlet and a sink with running water.

The Supreme Court, effective March 11, 2019, has issued minimum standards for the following areas:

Lactation Room/Area: The room shall be a private space and may be the same space used by all employees for this same purpose. The room or area must be completely private so that no one can inside the space, and it cannot be inside a restroom. It must be equipped with a chair, a table and an electrical outlet. This rooms should accommodate a person with a disability.

Posting Notice to the Public: The lactation room posting shall be located at the main entrance and/or building director and any other public entrance or public elevator lobby. The notice should also be posted in larger assembly areas. Signage should be posted directly outside the designated lactation room/area. At these locations, every person entering the courthouse and walking by the room/area will be able to see that a lactation space is available. Signage posted outside of the lactation room/area shall contain the universal symbol of lactation room accessibility in writing and in Braille.

Training: Suggestions for training include a memo to each county department head with a request to advise their employees about the new law and on the location/access to a lactation room/area and who to contact for more information.; education to new employees about the law and location and access to lactation room/area as part of a new employee orientation packet; and incorporating training into departmental meetings involving courthouse staff.

P.A. 100-1003 (July 1, 2018) – This amendment to the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act states that an employer shall provide a reasonable break time to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her nursing infant child each time the employee has the need, for one year after the child’s birth.  This break time may run concurrently with regularly provided break times. In addition, an employee may not reduce the employee’s compensation for time used to express milk. An employer shall provide reasonable break time as needed unless it would create an undue hardship as defined by item (J) of Section 2-102 of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

P.A. 100-0895 (January 1, 2019) – This legislation created the Government Severance Pay Act to provide that a unit of government that enters into a contract or employment agreement, or renewal or renegotiation of an existing contract or employment agreement that contains a provision for severance pay with an officer, agent, employee or contract include the following provisions: (1) severance pay may not exceed an amount greater than 20 weeks of compensation and (2) a prohibition of severance pay when the officer, agent, employee or contractor has been fired for misconduct, as defined within the Act, by the unit of government.

P.A. 100-1010 (August 23, 2018) – This legislation amended the Local Records Act to provide that when a unit of local government, school district, community college district, or other local taxing body enters a severance agreement with an employee or contractor because the employee or contractor was found to have engaged in sexual harassment or sexual discrimination, the public body shall publish specified information on its website within 72 hours of the approval of the agreement.

P.A. 100-1067 (August 24, 2019) – This legislation amends the One Day Rest in Seven Act to exclude individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act, who are required to be on call, from the provision of this Act regarding meal periods. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Disciplinary Action up to and Including Termination

My blogging has been pretty sporadic lately! I just finished an overload semester and had a boat load of client work to handle as well. So unpaid work gets pushed aside. I hope to get more regular on this site as time moves forward. Here's a summary of some of the main points related to a program I delivered last week to over 70 management personnel.

Recently, I facilitated a training event in Springfield covering the topic above. The exact wording used in the title can often be found at the end of a personnel or employment related policy reminding employees to follow the rules (i.e. policy) or else! The problem is that many times management doesn't enforce those policies because conflict for anyone is not easy and often avoided at all costs. However, the long-term costs to a company for not enforcing can lead to poor performance, attitude, increased turnover, decreased morale of other employees, unfair or inequity complaints to outside agencies or an attorney. So bottom line grow a backbone and enforce the policies number one!

Number two, it's important to not treat non-union employees like union employees and vice-versa. This is similar to treating salary employees like hourly employees under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). You can lose your overtime exemption status and/or at will employment status respectively if you don't focus on the differences. If you have a contract covering union employees, you should have an employee handbook covering similar topics for non-union employees. When the contract or handbook says you have to go through a disciplinary process, follow it unless the act or behavior is so egregious an immediate firing is warranted and important to protect the safety of the rest of your employees. Don't make the fact that union employees can't be fired the excuse that you just let things go and assume it will work itself out. Most of the time employees need a mediator. They look to management when they can't figure out how to work out the problems themselves.

Finally, it so very important to document all encounters with employees especially those involving disciplinary action up to and including termination. Using a well-developed Corrective Action form, Last Chance Agreement, or Termination Checklist are just a few that we discussed as being important in a typical process. Documentation is important not just for the record but also for memory. Now that Illinois has a 300-day charge filing deadline, it's more importation than ever to document all verbal and written warnings as well as the termination itself. Even voluntary terminations should be documented to avoid unemployment insurance claims. When an employee asks to terminate their relationship with the county ask them to put it in writing.

In summary, think about management like a game of chess.  You have to be strategic and proactive and not reactive and defensive.  I suggest you have each other’s back as managers, follow the company polices and official employment regulations, and document everything when handling any disciplinary action up to and including termination. Have a wonderful summer!

Monday, February 25, 2019

What's New in HR for Illinois Employers?

By Donna Rogers Skowronski, M.Ed., SPHR, SHRM-SCP via

Now – already required in your workplaces

New IL Poster required due to ISSERRA change as of 1/1/19.

IL Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires employers to allow breaks as needed to express breast milk and they cannot reduce an employee pay for taking breaks for doing so up to one year after the child is born. Keep in mind the previous requirement already in place that requires employers to provide a private location and a lockable refrigerator to store the milk.

IL Department of Human Rights - IHRA increased the time frame for employees to act against employers making a claim through their department from 180 to 300 days which now mirrors the time frame they had previously had to file a claim with the EEOC.  Employees can also opt out of an IDHR investigation and go directly to the state court with their complaint against the employer. Employers must post a new notice and include the same content in their employee handbooks.  You can find the notice here

The only employees who are now exempt from the IL One Day Rest in Seven Act is Emergency Medical Services Employees.  Other than that, every other employee must get one day off per week.

The Il Wage Payment and Collection Act changed to require employers to reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred within the scope of their employment.  Employees must be allowed at least 30 days to submit reimbursement requests.  Basically, you cannot expect employees to pay for expenses they incur to get the job done.  You can have a policy covering unauthorized expenses and don’t have to pay for the employees’ own negligence such as loss or theft, etc.

Finally, there are additional protections for both military members as well as equal pay requirements for African-American employees like the previous gender pay expectations. The IL Service Employment Member & Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (ISERRA) also requires an updated notice be posted for employees and can be found here.

Future – watch and be prepared

The IL Minimum Wage is Increasing but that’s not the only problem it creates! The governor signed the Lifting Up Illinois Working Families Act on 2/20/19 raising minimum wage to 15 over the next six years.  This will not only be an issue for employers at the bottom end of their pay scale, it will cause problems all the way through as compression problems will occur with such a surgency so fast.  Employers should look at all employees pay in order to minimize risk of losing quality employees to higher paying jobs who is paying attention to the bigger picture impact of this change.  Specifically, the minimum wage will change from 8.25 to 9.25 on 1/1/2020 (less than 10 months from now) then $10 an hour on 7/1/2020.  Then it will go up incrementally by $1 each year starting 1/1/21 until it reaches $15 an hour on 1/1/25.

New Overtime Rule is Closer to Enactment so get ready, if you’re not already! The new rule is not expected to be as drastic as the original rule in 2016.  However, it will still be significant enough to cause pay compression issues among those who are exempt from receiving overtime pay based on job duties and the new minimum salary level expected to be in the 30k range.  If you didn’t do a wage study in 2016, I would recommend you do one now in anticipation for a potential January 2020 implementation date. When I visited several counties in 2014 & 2015 to do HR Assessments, I found some employees were misclassified as exempt when they should have been non-exempt employees being paid for overtime.  While the duties tests are not changing this is a good time to review how your positions are classified in addition to pay to avoid potential back wage payouts.  Watch for more about this in Department of Labor news sometime in March or April.

Resources used:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Employer Changes in Illinois: 300 Days Plus New POSTER

The following are a couple employment related changes all business owners and human resources professionals in Illinois should be aware of.

Employees of any Illinois employer now have a much longer time frame to bring a complaint or case against their employer.  This is due to a change to the Illinois Human Rights Act the Governor signed on August 24, 2018.  Specifically it was Senate Bill 20 Public Act 100-1066. 

So basically, if an employee feels they have been unfairly treated by their employer or any representative o their employer, such as their supervisor, they now have 300 days to bring that complaint to the EEOC or an attorney.  This just reinforces age old HR related advice to: DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT.  It's hard to remember what we had for lunch yesterday, let alone the who, what, when, where, how , and why of an employee situation that happened well over a year ago by the time you are notified that an employee took their full 300 days to report a problem with the employer.

Due to all the focus on sexual harassment in the media over the past year, Illinois issued a new required poster last month covering employee rights related to workplaces being free of harassment and discrimination. The direct link to the poster can be found here:

Remember, all employer posters required for federal and state must be posted in each building in the most conspicuous location that all employees in the building frequent.  Doing so will minimize your changes of fines from $210 to $10,000 per poster per building, if audited by authorities of compliance organizations such as the DOL, OSHA, etc.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Top HR Podcasts Chosen for HR Student Review

Since 2011, I have incorporated a social learning aspect to my HRM and Strategic HRM course.  The graduate students get to chose while the undergraduates are assigned a specific podcast to listen to each week.  Over the years, I have incorporated blog readings, podcasts, and HR related assessments.  While some have come and gone, I've decide this year to go full podcast as I think students get a chance to actually hear from various practitioners in the field.  Adding an auditory aspect to the learning helps enhance the overall learning experience especially when our online students already have to do a lot of reading! So here is this years winning list in no particular order:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

HR Assessment Risk Summary

In summarizing the potential for risk in the human resources and personnel practices of organizations visited over the past few years, the highest risk of audits, investigations, grievances and the resulting potential for penalties, fines and legal concerns come from six primary sources.  The main reason for concerns are because certain federal and state agencies are making it a priority to investigate:
  • Misclassification of employees as exempt, Illinois led the nation in active investigations 3,635 involving 19,765 misclassifications, 245.6 million in unreported taxable wages, 5.1 million in unemployment tax unreported, 270,570 employees impacted.
  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that 84,254 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during fiscal year (FY) 2017, and secured $398 million for victims in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation.
  • Illinois ranks 6th in the nation in the number of EEOC charges filed by employees, of those charges 54.2% were regarding retaliation by an employer.
  •  Employee Eligibility Verification I-9 compliance, $110 per form, $110 per error, up to $1,100 per error 3rd offense.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance willful $100 to $1,100 per violation plus damages, fines and legal fees.
  • Independent Contractor misclassification unpaid federal, state & other withholding, unpaid WC & unemployment premiums, work expenses, overtime, along with interest & penalties levied.  Claims have been staggering amounts to employers.  ACA in 2015 fines $2,000 per employee not covered.
It is these six that are both common outcomes of the assessments done and the most likely for future risk. However, the risks don’t end with these six.  Related concern for employer problems comes from a variety of HR Forms not being used at all or used in outdate and non-compliant manner.
  •  job applications
  • employee handbooks or policy manuals
  •  I-9 Forms
  • EEO-1 or EEO-4
  • VETS-4212
  • FMLA Applications
  • Notification, rights, release and signature authorization  of all background inquiries, particularly credit checks under FCRA
Collectively, human resource documents being inconsistently used throughout organizations, in various versions, or not at all can add to the additional risks related to personnel files and records management and retention. Recommended areas for additional human resources consulting would begin with the following:
  • EEOC compliance and Affirmative Action Plan development (to include EEO-4 & VETS-100)
  • Compensation & Benefits Analysis and Wage Studies
  • Exempt/Non-Exempt Audits (to include independent Contractors)
  • Employee Eligibility Verification I-9 Training (E-Verify)
  • HR Forms Audit and Form Development
  • FMLA Training for all Management and Department Heads
  • Recruiting & Hiring Best Practices Training
  • Personnel Files and Records Retention Training

Friday, June 15, 2018

Talking HR with Brian Pierce from WMAY

This morning I had a chance to talk with Brian Pierce from WMAY as a member of Local First Springfield. We talked about ice cream, management coaching, hiring and retaining employees and more.  Have a listen!

Listen to "Rogers HR Consulting - 6/15/18" on Spreaker.