Change To The Open Meetings Act Exemption Regarding Employment

The Governor recently signed an amendment to the Open Meetings Act into law effective immediately. 5 ILCS 120/2(c). The law had allowed public bodies to go into closed session to discuss the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees.  The amendment now extends that not only to employees of a public body but also those specific individuals who serve as independent contractors in a park, recreational or educational setting or specific volunteers of the public body. 

Boards should be reminded that this exemption does not permit generic discussions regarding the type of employees, volunteers or contractors.  It only allows for particular discussion regarding particular individuals. Boards have run afoul of this difference in various Public Access Counselor decisions. Care must be taken to keep the discussion on track regarding specific individuals.  Please check with your Tressler attorney before going into closed session so that they may offer some guidance. 

 New Gender-Neutral Bathroom Requirements

The Equitable Restroom Act, 410 ILCS 35/1 et seq. has been amended to require all single-occupancy restrooms in a place of public accommodation or public building to be identified as all-gender. This amendment goes into effect January 1, 2020, and pertains to all public accommodations as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/5-101. It also requires that such restrooms are designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use. Each single-occupancy restroom shall be outfitted with exterior signage that marks the restroom as a restroom but does not indicate any specific gender. The Department of Public Health will also adopt rules to implement these requirements. Now would be a good time to evaluate facilities that will need to comply with this amendment.

More Bathroom Requirements – Baby Changing Stations

Another amendment to the Equitable Restrooms Act was just signed by Governor Pritzker. 410 ILCS 35/18. It requires that a “public building” open and accessible to the public shall have at least one safe, sanitary and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women entering a restroom provided for use by women. The same is true for men’s restrooms. Signage is required at the entrance of the restroom indicating that there is a baby diaper changing station. 

This Section of the Act applies to “public buildings” which is defined to include 1) a place of public accommodation as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/5-101; 2) a State building open to the public; 3) a retail store of more than 5,000 square feet with a restroom open to the public; and 4) certain restaurants. The amendment does not apply to industrial buildings, bars who prohibit those under 18 years of age, a health facility’s bathroom intended for one patient at a time, or a renovation where a local building inspector grants an exemption due to installation not being feasible or impacting disability access. This amendment does not create a private right of action.

In sum, now is a good time to consider what changes need to be made to come into compliance with this law. Please contact your Tressler attorney for assistance as needed.

For more information about this article, contact Tressler attorney John O’Driscoll at jodriscoll@tresslerllp.com.