Illinois’ small businesses have less than four months before they must adhere to an entirely new and enhanced set of rules and protections for their workers.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law last month that’s intended to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. It also put into place more protections for victims.
There are many new steps businesses will need to take lest they open themselves up to lawsuits due to a key change in state law.
“Unlawful discrimination can be either actual or perceived based on race, color, religion, age, sex, marital status et cetera,” said Andrew Rawson, co-founder of training company Traliant. “Adding the word ‘perceived’ in there leaves a lot of latitude because now it’s a bit of unlawful discrimination that’s in the eye of the beholder.”
He said it can be very expensive to defend discrimination cases.
Another bill Pritzker signed requires all businesses to adhere to the Human Rights Act, not just businesses with a minimum number of workers. An identical bill was initially vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner because “Moving away from federal best practices and Illinois’ own current practices will discourage business creation, while maintaining greater consistency with this standard provides small businesses with predictability in their compliance efforts, and recognizes the distinct challenges that liability may pose for them.”
Because of that change, some small businesses will be seeing these requirements for the first time but being in compliance isn’t difficult.
“It shouldn’t take more than about thirty minutes to train an employee,” Rawson said.
The new laws take effect Jan. 1.