Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appeals court to extend protections of Title VII to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The decision gives an Indiana professor, as well as other gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, the right to sue under Title VII over discriminatory employment practices based on their sexual orientation. According to the Court, “… it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex …”
This landmark decision is critical support for the EEOC’s interpretation that Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will decide whether Title VII does, in fact, prohibit discrimination on these grounds. Until the Supreme Court rules, however, employers in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana should consider the risk of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination claims under Title VII (in addition to claims under applicable state and local laws prohibiting such discrimination) when making employment decisions. We will keep you posted on further developments relating to this issue.
We’re only a few days into Q2, but we wanted to make sure that you’re prepared for a significant legal change that is effective at the beginning of Q3. Starting July 1st, employees who work in Cook County will have a right to paid sick leave under the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance or both.
On their surface, the requirements of the Ordinances seem pretty straightforward, leaving many companies to believe that their current PTO or sick leave policy meets the new standards. However, most of the policies we’ve reviewed to date don’t meet all of the new standards. This is largely because the Ordinances:
- Apply to all employees – including part-time employees – who work at least 80 hours in any 120 day period.
- Allow the employee to carryover up to 20 hours of paid sick leave into the next year (up to 60 for employers that are covered by the FMLA).
- Require that paid sick leave may be used not just for the employee or a family member’s illness or injury, but also to seek medical care or to care for a family member, in the event that the employee or a family member is the victim of domestic violence, or in the event that the workplace or the employee’s child’s school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency.
- Provide that an employer can’t require a note unless the employee is out for more than 3 consecutive days or more.
- Put limitations on the notice employers can require from employees, including allowing employees to provide last minute notice by phone, email or text.
There are also a couple provisions in the Ordinances that help employers – including capping accrual at 40 hours per year, capping use at 40 or 60 hours per year (depending on the size of the employer and the reason for leave), and not requiring payout on termination. However, to take advantage of these employer-friendly provisions, it’s important to reflect them in your policy.
Both Ordinances provide that employees who don’t receive the paid sick time the Ordinances require can file suit and collect triple damages. We expect Plaintiffs’ attorneys to be out in force looking for potential class actions, so it is important that every company that employs workers in Cook County have their policy reviewed in advance of the July 1st implementation deadline. Because of the number of sick leave policies we’ve already seen, we are able to review current policies and prepare compliant policies efficiently, on a flat fee basis.
Labor & Employment Practice Group Leader Laura Friedel is available for questions about how these ordinances might affect your company’s policies.