Two New Laws Increase Obligations on Illinois Employers

By Jim Griffin, JD, Employment Counsel
Published September 11, 2018

Illinois LawGovernor Rauner recently signed into law two bills that impose new obligations for Illinois employers.  One bill amended the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act and the other amended the Wage Payment and Collection Act.

The first bill, which Governor Rauner signed on August 21, 2018, and which is effective immediately, now requires employers of more than five employees to provide employees who are nursing with reasonable paid break time to express milk for up to one year after the child’s birth. Previously, the law only required unpaid break time, but it did not limit the timeframe to one year. The amended law does allow employers to require employees to express milk during any break time already provided, which would include an unpaid 30-minute lunch period, if that is what the employer provides. Any additional reasonable break time to express milk would have to be paid.  

The bill also made it more difficult for employers to avoid having to comply with its requirements. Previously, an employer was not required to provide the break time if doing so would unduly disrupt the employer’s operations. Under the amended law, an employer would have to demonstrate that complying with the break requirements would create an undue hardship for the employer, which is a much more difficult standard to meet.

The second bill, signed by Governor Rauner on August 26, 2018, and which is effective January 1, 2019, requires employers to reimburse employees for “all necessary expenses that are incurred by the employee within the employee’s scope of employment and that are directly related to services performed for the employer.”  820 ILCS 115/9.5(a). The law specifically excludes losses due to an employee's own negligence, losses due to normal wear, or losses due to theft, unless the theft was a result of the employer's negligence.

Employers must examine their current practices, and make sure that, by January 1, 2019, they come into compliance with the new law.  For instance, employers who previously did not reimburse employees for their work-related mileage (excluding the regular commute) must now be sure to do so. Similarly, employers who previously may have reimbursed employees attending conferences for only the registration fees must now also reimburse related expenses. Other expenses employers must consider are employees’ personal cell phones (if supervisors, customers, or clients call those phones for work-related purposes) and home internet and other home office expenses that are necessary for an employee to work from home. 

Employees are required to submit an expenditure within 30 days of incurring it, unless the employer has a written policy that provides for a longer timeframe. An employee is not entitled to reimbursement if (i) the employer has an established written expense reimbursement policy and (ii) the employee failed to comply with the written expense reimbursement policy. Thus, an employer is not required to reimburse unauthorized or unnecessary expenses unless it fails to comply with its own written policy. Furthermore, an employer is not required to reimburse expenses that exceed the specifications or guidelines in the employer’s policy.

Because the law provides some specific protections for employers who have (and follow) written expense reimbursement policies, if you have employees who regularly incur work-related expenses, we would highly recommend that you have a comprehensive expense reimbursement policy that covers all typical expenses an employee may incur on your organization’s behalf. If you would like to discuss your expense reimbursement policy or you have any questions about these new laws, feel free to contact us at info@hrsource.org or 800-448-4584.

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