Illinois Workplace Transparency Act Signed Into law And NLRB Hands Down New Union Election Rules

The heat of the summer doesn’t seem to be slowing down State and Federal lawmakers as the Pritzker honeymoon continues, but before the doldrums of an election season can kick in. Here’s the latest:

Illinois #MeToo Bill Now The Law

For instance, on Friday, August 9, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed into law the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA), a bill inspired by the #MeToo movement that imposes several new obligations on employers to combat harassment, including a requirement to provide annual harassment training of workers, a prohibition on some confidentiality agreements when they bar disclosure of harassment, discrimination and retaliation concerns; and an expansion of protections against harassment to independent contractors and to locations outside the physical workplace, both under certain conditions.

Most of the WTA takes effect January 1, 2020, although some parts take effect immediately. You can read more about it, and access a copy of the law here.

NLRB Signals Change To Policies Around Union Decertification

Also, earlier today, August 12, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) published the first of its promised series of proposed rules to change union election processes. The most significant piece of the proposed rule would seem to make it easier for workers to vote to decertify or “oust” unions as their bargaining representatives. 

Part of the proposed rule would change the Board’s policy toward “blocking charges” – that is, the pausing of a union election when an unfair labor practice charge is filed alleging that a party to that election illegally coerced workers to vote a certain way.

In an accompanying release, the Board said that blocking charges are usually filed by unions to try to delay elections in order to decertify them from representing a unit of workers. The proposed rule would create what the Board calls a “vote-and-impound” procedure in which it would allow an election to proceed, but ballots cast would be seized until the charges are resolved. Under current rules, the Board postpones elections until it disposes of the charges, giving parties a longer time to campaign before the vote.

Another part of the rule would restore a 45-day window period for rival unions to file a decertification petition after a union is voluntarily recognized by an employer. Currently, the Board prohibits challenges to whether a union has majority support for six months following an employer’s voluntary recognition.

The proposed rules can be read here. The initial public comment period closes October 11, 2019.

It All Adds Up to A Busy Fall For Illinois Employers

These developments will only make for a busier autumn for many employers. Some of the other employment laws Illinois employers must plan for include:

  • Amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act (effective September 2019), which prohibits pay discrepancy between genders. Details can be found here here.
  • New EEO-1 Disclosure Rules, which require employers who file EEO-1 reports to provide pay data for the EEOC for 2017 and 2018 under component 2 of the EEO-1 report by September 30, 2019. Details can be found here.
  • Amendments to the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (effective January 1, 2020), which change discrimination and drug testing laws to account for the decriminalization of recreational marijuana use. Details can be found here.
  • Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (effective January 1, 2020) that expand anti-discrimination protections to virtually every employer with as few as one worker. Details can be found here.
  • Chicago’s “Fair Workweek Ordinance” (effective July 1, 2020), a predictive scheduling ordinance which requires employers to give employees their schedules in advance and sets employee pay at a higher rate when changes are made to work schedules. More details are available here.

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Gary Savine is an Illinois employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. in Chicago. Gary regularly advises human resources professionals on recently enacted employment laws.