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New Pregnancy Accommodation and Payroll Card Laws Coming To Illinois

September 8, 2014


In the run up to Labor Day, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed two public acts into law that significantly impact Illinois employers. The first is a major extension of the Human Rights Act that enhances pregnancy discrimination protections to affirmatively require accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions. The second imposes significant limitations on employers who use payroll cards in lieu of checks, cash or direct deposit of wages.

Pregnancy Accommodations

The pregnancy accommodation amendment presents a wholesale change to the legal framework behind pregnancy discrimination rules. Prior to the amendment, Illinois law, like federal law, treated pregnancy as an aspect of sex discrimination. Thus, employers had no duty to make accommodation for pregnancies.

The key elements of the amendment add pregnancy – defined in the statute as “pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth” – as a separate prohibited basis of discrimination and expressly requires employers to provide the same type of reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees as they do for disabilities, unless the employer can show “undue hardship.” 

Examples of presumptive reasonable accommodations include:

To the extent the act permits leave as an accommodation, it clearly states that a pregnant employee cannot be required to take leave if a reasonable accommodation permitting her to remain on the job is available. The amendment also prohibits employers from requiring pregnant employees to accept accommodations they have not requested. 

While employees may already have some of these protections under other laws, such as the FMLA, these amendments expand the protections available and to whom they must be granted. The amendments expressly grant protection to applicants, part-time and probationary employees, in addition to those that are otherwise FMLA-eligible, and applies to all employers regardless of size.

Other features of the amendments:

Payroll Cards

The second public act signed by Gov. Quinn amends the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act to regulate the use of payroll cards. Significant features include: 

Robert Zielinski