A look at new laws that could affect lawyers, their clients
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed into law 442 of the 599 bills that he has received to date. This is a concise summary of new business-related laws that may affect lawyers or their clients. Unless noted otherwise, all take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. You may find the actual text of these public acts at www.ilga.gov
• Limited Liability Company Act cleanup: Public Act 101-553clarifies members' and managers' liability to third parties because several Illinois appellate opinions have misinterpreted this section to shield tortfeasors from liability under other laws. It also makes other changes.
• Workplace Transparency Act: Public Act 101-221voids any agreement that prohibits an employee or prospective employee from disclosing truthful statements about an employer's unlawful employment practice or requires them to waive or otherwise diminish any related future claim. It makes some limited exceptions such as a valid confidential settlement agreement, and also authorizes attorney's fees and costs for a violation of the act.
It also amends the Illinois Human Rights Act by defining "harassment" and to include a prohibition of harassment and sexual harassment of nonemployees in the workplace. It defines "unlawful discrimination" to be what is "actual or perceived" and expands "working environment" to include outside of the physical location to which an employee is assigned to perform their duties.
It further requires employers to do the following: (1) disclose settlements regarding these claims; (2) use the Department of Human Rights training model for sexual harassment prevention or develop their own that must be the same or better than the department's; and (3) train their employees on a yearly basis subject to civil penalties for non-compliance. It also provides for additional training and safety measures for employees of restaurants and bars to be available in English and Spanish.
• Amends the Equal Pay Act of 2003: Public Act 101-177makes it unlawful for an employer to require an employee to sign a contract or waiver that would prohibit the employee from disclosing or discussing information about the employee's wages or benefits. It also makes it unlawful for an employer to seek this kind of information of a job applicant from any current or former employer unless it is a matter of public record or if the job applicant is a current employee and is applying for a position with the same employer. It is effective Sept. 29.
• Minimum wage: Public Act 101-1raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period beginning in 2020.
•The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act: Public Act 101-27decriminalizes possession of small amounts of cannabis and replaces it with a tax and regulation system.
• Medical cannabis: Public Act 101-363expands the definition of "debilitating medical condition" and also redefines "certifying health care professional" to mean a physician, an advanced practice registered nurse, or a physician assistant. It is effective Aug. 9.
• Consumer debt and collections: Public Act 101-168provides that a "consumer debt judgment" of $25,000 or less draws interest at the rate of 5 percent per annum instead of 9 percent. It applies to all consumer debt judgments entered after Jan. 1, 2020.
• Advance directives: Public Act 101-163amends the Electronic Commerce Security Act so that "electronic records" under the act will now include a living will or healthcare power of attorney.
• Illinois Trust Code: Public Act 101-48is an Illinois-centric version of the Uniform Trust Code. It is intended to modernize trust law in the state of Illinois, codify common law concepts that currently apply to trusts, and provide uniformity in relation to trust law in other states.
• Illinois Human Rights Act: Public Act 101-430defines "employer" to include any person employing one (instead of 15) or more employees within Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks within the calendar year of or preceding the alleged violation. It exempts any place of worship and will go into effect July 1, 2020.
• Jim Covington is director of legislative affairs for the Illinois State Bar Association