By Amy S. Cramer, J.D., LL.M.
An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) now makes this law applicable to all employers with one or more employees, which is a great expansion of the law’s reach. The IHRA is the state-level anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation statute for Illinois. The law redefines “employer” to include those businesses with one or more employees.
The new law will become effective on July 1, 2020, and was signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on August 21, 2019.
When the IHRA only applied to businesses with 15 or more employees, there were instances when it applied to those businesses with only one employee. Those would have been matters involving sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and disability discrimination. The IHRA also was previously extended to companies with fewer than 15 employees in cases of retaliatory actions. It prohibited a “person,” a term that can include employers with fewer than 15 employees, from retaliating against individuals who file sexual harassment or discrimination charges.
Expanding this amendment changes a lot for the smaller employer in Illinois. For example, it means that small businesses in Illinois may be subject to race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age discrimination claims and other claims that would previously have been brought against employers with 15 or more employees. The amendment also will apply to multi-state employers who may only have one employee resident in the state and covered by Illinois law.
It would be a wise move for employers who are now part of the expanded definition of “employer” to review their personnel procedures, employee handbooks, and training materials to ensure they comply with the IHRA.
Cramer Law has a great deal of experience in developing such materials for employers and ensuring that the descriptions are accurate and in line with the amendment’s requirements.