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Impending Changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act: What Every Employer Needs to Know

Responding in part to the #MeToo movement, state and local governments have begun expanding protections for those alleging discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  Last month, the Illinois General Assembly passed a series of amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“the IHRA”) that may have a significant impact on employers if they are signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner.

  • House Bill 4572: Currently, the IHRA applies to employers who employ 15 or more employees within Illinois for at least 20 weeks per year.  HB 4572 would essentially cover all Illinois employers—any employer who employs one or more employee for at least 20 weeks per year.
  • Senate Bill 20: SB 20 makes several changes to the procedures of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) and the Human Rights Commission (“the Commission”). Among other things, SB 20 would:
    • Extend the charge-filing period from 180 days after an incident giving rise to a claim to 300 days after the incident;
    • Require the IDHR to notify all parties that the complainant may “opt out” of participating in the IDHR process within 60 days and commence a lawsuit in state court;
    • Change the make-up of the Commission from 13 part-time Commissioners to 7 full-time Commissioners, all of whom must either be licensed to practice law in Illinois or have relevant professional experience;
    • Create a temporary panel of 3 Commissioners to handle the backlog of requests for review; and
    • Require the publication of Commission decisions within 180 days.

NLRB Update: Trump Board Wastes No Time Overturning Obama-Era Precedent

December 26, 2017

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With two appointments by President Trump, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had a Republican majority for several months in 2017, for the first time in ten years.  The “Trump Board” wasted no time overturning Obama-era precedents – and has signaled that there is much more to come.

Harder for Employers to be Declared “Joint Employers”

In Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd., 365 NLRB No. 156 (Dec. 15, 2017), the Board overruled the joint-employer test announced in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015).  In Browning-Ferris, the Obama Board had departed from decades of precedent to declare that two unrelated employers would be deemed “joint employers” for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) if one had reserved the right to exercise direct or indirect control over the employees of the other, even if that control was never actually exercised, and even if the control was only “limited and routine.”  Under the traditional standard, now restored by the Board in Hy-Brand, joint employer status will be found only where the requisite control is actually exercised, is direct and immediate, and is more than merely limited and routine.

Harder for Unions to Justify “Micro-Units”

In PCC Structurals, Inc., 365 NLRB No. 160 (Dec. 15, 2017), the Board overruled the Obama-era decision in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011), which had permitted labor unions to petition for elections in “micro units” of cherry-picked employees unless the employer could prove that employees excluded from

Temps in Tenth Circuit Face Stricter Scrutiny When Seeking Time Off as Reasonable Accommodation

On July 6, 2017, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reiterated that physical attendance in the workplace is an essential function of most jobs and emphasized this is particularly true for temporary workers filling short-term vacancies.

In Punt v. Kelly Services, the plaintiff, Kristin Punt, was a temporary worker assigned to work for GE Controls Solutions (“GE”) as a receptionist.  The essential functions of that job included being “physically present at the lobby/reception desk during business hours.”  However, during her six weeks in the position, Ms. Punt was absent or tardy on multiple occasions, often due to medical appointments related to a recent diagnosis of breast cancer.  GE terminated her assignment after she informed GE on a Monday morning that she planned to be absent the entire week and would need unspecified additional time off for “some appointments and tests” and “five times of radiation.”

Ms. Punt filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging failure to accommodate a disability.  In the Tenth Circuit, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that (1) she is disabled, (2) she is “otherwise qualified,” and (3) she requested a plausibly reasonable accommodation.  The burden of production then shifts to the employer to present evidence either (1) conclusively rebutting one or more elements of the prima facie case, or (2) establishing one of the affirmative defenses, such as undue hardship.  The Tenth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for GE, concluding as a matter of law

Other Perspectives on Trends in Employee Noncompetition Agreements

In mid-May, the New York Times published a long article reporting a national trend that employers are expanding both the number of employees who are required to sign non-competition agreements and the types of employees required to sign these agreements.  The article emphasized stories of low-paid, low-level employees who could not find a new job, or had to take a lower paying job, because they signed a non-competition agreement.  The Times ran an editorial that urged legislatures to prohibit employers from restricting the employment opportunities of lower paid employees.

What is missing from this picture?

While the Times article mentioned states vary in enforcement of non-competition restrictions, noting that California prohibits all restrictions on employees moving to new jobs, it did not explain the important differences in how states other than California enforce non-competition restrictions.  The Times article also did not report the damage to a business that may result from an employee’s taking advantage of trade secrets learned while working for the former employer, or of customer relationships that were entrusted, to compete unfairly with the former employer.

We asked a few of our non-competition attorneys for their perspectives on some of the questions raised by the Times article: Why do companies require lower-level employees to sign non-competition agreements? How typical is it for companies to seek to enforce those agreements for lower-level employees?  How do courts in each state respond to those enforcement efforts?

Arizona

Under Arizona law, restrictive covenants are disfavored and are construed narrowly by

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