New Illinois Laws: Payroll Cards and Protection for Pregnant Employees

Governor Quinn signed two laws in August that impact Illinois employers — one that expands protections for pregnant applicants and employees and one that sets new requirements for payroll debit cards.

First, under amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act, employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant applicants and employees who request them. Examples of pregnancy accommodations that are listed in the amendment include time-off, more frequent or longer breaks, seating, transfer to a less strenuous position or light duty, acquisition or modification of equipment, job restructuring and assistance with manual labor. Under the amendment, it is the employer’s burden to establish that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. Also important, the amendment expands the prohibition on pregnancy discrimination so that it will apply to any employer with one or more employees (rather than only those with 15 or more employees) and prohibits employers from requiring pregnant employees to use an accommodation they didn’t request. Finally, the amendment requires employers to post a notice regarding pregnancy accommodation rights. These new provisions take effect on January 1, 2015.

Second, under an amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, employers are explicitly permitted to use payroll debit cards – often termed “paycards” – but must meet certain requirements. The requirements for paycards set out in the amendment include clearly communicating in writing that use of the paycard is voluntary, obtaining the employee’s voluntary written or electronic consent to use a paycard, providing at least one alternative method of payment to employees, providing employees with an itemized list of paycard fees, and providing employees with a way to obtain all of their wages without fees (and a description of how to do so). The amendment also prohibits paycards that assess certain fees or are linked to any form of credit. These new paycard provisions take effect on January 1, 2015. Employers that use paycards should carefully review the terms of their current paycards to ensure they meet the new Illinois standards and prepare the documents required by the amendment so that they may be issued before year end.

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