SYCAMORE – Beginning in January, business owners will have to contend with several new laws – including those that increase the minimum wage and legalize marijuana use by adults over 21.
Jay Shattuck, executive director of the Employment Law Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told the audience Thursday in Sycamore that most of the changes can be made by updating or formalizing existing policies. Shattuck told the crowd at the DeKalb County Community Foundation offices said that he thinks the legislation in Illinois governing recreational marijuana has some of the most employer-favorable regulations in the country, and they are prepared with policies.
“Because of changes to the law, you have to prove impairment,” Shattuck said. “I believe the intent was, if you did have a drug testing program and you saw that someone was acting funny ... and you don’t have a drug testing policy, you’re going to have to show impairment.”
At the Sycamore Chamber event, Shattuck discussed what he called the “Big Four” changes coming for Illinois businesses after the spring session in Springfield.
Recreational marijuana was one focus, but the legislature also had also increased the minimum wage across the state, changed rules regarding sexual harassment training and reporting, and also forbade employers from asking about wage and salary history on job applications.
“We had so many questions after this spring session about the impact of some of the legislation we saw there,” said state Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, who helped organize the event along with the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Chamber.
Recreational marijuana and how employers need to respond was the main focus of the presentation. Employers now have a different standard if they want to discipline employees for being under the influence of marijuana while on the job.
Shattuck offered a suggestion: While the issue is being tested in courts, employers should be conservative with their policies. One of the complicating factors with enforcement is that employers can’t take disciplinary action against employees for participating in legal activities outside of work hours and the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean employers can’t have rules in place to ensure safety, he said.
“If you want to deal with it from the standpoint of safety in the workplace, then you better have a drug testing policy and make sure you run your drug testing policy past your legal counsel to make sure it’s consistent with the law,” he said.
Having a “reasonable, non-discriminatory” policy is the start to navigating the new waters, Shattuck said.
It’s a similar response to the new requirements regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Every employee now needs to be trained every year, Shattuck said, but any place that already has a current training plan in place should meet the requirement.
Keicher said more than 3,800 bills were introduced to the legislature during the spring session, and he said he and other Republicans had to fight to protect businesses from too much regulation. If a business owner was having trouble with new rules, he said, they should let him know.
“Nothing sways a floor full of legislators,” he said, “like a true story from home.”