• Posts by Jeffrey A. Risch
    Partner

    Jeff’s practice is entirely devoted to management-side labor and employment law. He takes enormous pride in advising and defending the foundation of our economy: employers. Every day he arises with a passion to aggressively and ...

Employers with 100 or more employees in Illinois have begun receiving notice that it is time for their business to comply with obtaining their Equal Pay Act Registration Certificate (“EPRC”). In order to obtain the EPRC from the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) a business must complete an EPRC Compliance Statement, submit their Federal EEO-1 disclosure and provide pay data regarding their Illinois employees. 

Treat ‘em like mushrooms is an expression that is never actually uttered out loud by union organizers, but it’s certainly implied when it comes to organizing a workforce.  Keeping the worker in the dark concerning key facts and the fine print before casting an official vote for or against union representation is something organized labor tries to ensure. In fact, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), unions not only don’t have an obligation to share key information to prospects, they can also lawfully mislead workers and provide them with false ...

Although labor unions have historically not targeted  banks and credit unions for organizing, desperate times call for desperate measures as union membership continues to fall in the United States with only 6.1% of the private sector workforce belonging to a labor organization. While just over 1% of all financial services employees are unionized, there has been an uptick in unionization hitting the financial industry since 2020; with signs of more aggressive action on the part of labor organizations not slowing down. 

Recent Union Organizing of Financial Institutions

Recent ...

Court decisions dealing with and interpreting the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act do not occur with great regularity. So when an interesting decision comes down, we feel it is worth reporting on and should be noted by those businesses that are subject to the Act.

The case is Rodriguez v. Simplex Grinnell LP and is from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, decided in August 2021. In that case, the court rejected plaintiffs’ (employees of Simplex Grinnell who worked on public projects in the State of Illinois) argument that testing andor inspecting work ...

On December 17, 2021, in a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay of OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) previously ordered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore, OSHA’s ETS mandating workplace vaccination and testing on all private employers with 100 or more employees is back on. While the 6th Circuit did not address timing issues, the day after the decision was released, OSHA announced that it will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10, 2022 and will not issue citations for ...

If you have frequented the SmithAmundsen Labor & Employment Blog, you may recall that we previously reported on one of the very first actions taken by Governor Pritzker immediately following his inauguration in January 2019. Gov. Pritzker signed into law additional amendments to the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (IPWA). Amongst the changes made to one of the most onerous prevailing wage laws in the United States, was a new mandate that required all contractors to submit their monthly certified transcript of payroll via the Illinois Department of Labor’s (IDOL) electronic ...

Good, bad or otherwise… no matter your own personal or professional viewpoint, the fact is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is poised to usher in new reforms and implement pro-labor priorities with the intent of reversing the modern-day trend of unions losing members in the private sector and penalizing employers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) who attempt to push back against labor unions and related union organizing.  While Big Labor continues to push the PRO-Act in Washington, D.C., there are many changes being implemented at the NLRB by recently ...

On September 24, 2021, as instructed by President Biden’s Executive Order 14042, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) published its COVID-⁠19 Workplace Safety for Federal Contractors Guidance. We first updated you on this Executive Order in our blog published on September 13: Who is a Federal Contractor for Purposes of the Biden Vaccine Mandate? But does the Task Force’s new guidance actually assist us in determining what federal contractors are covered under the Executive Order? Unfortunately, certainty as to who is covered by the Executive ...

Employers of all sizes and industries, operating anywhere in the U.S., need to conduct HR Audits regularly. In 2021 and beyond, it is critical to carefully evaluate all aspects of how to properly and lawfully administer and manage personnel issues. Workplace laws, rules and regulations are constantly changing – what was lawful yesterday may be unlawful tomorrow. Annual HR Audits conducted by those with intimate knowledge and understanding of the latest legal developments, including enforcement, must be part of any employer’s regular processes.

SmithAmundsen LLC’s ...

Contractors beware – the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) has ramped up audits of contractors as labor unions and related organizations flood the IDOL with “complaints. Remember, under the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (IPWA), a prevailing wage “complaint” need not be verified or even submitted to the IDOL under penalty of perjury. The IDOL will investigate each and every “complaint” regardless of merit and, while historically the main focus of the IDOL was to ensure proper and full payment of the actual prevailing wage, it is now seeking to issue violations and debar ...

Big Labor continues to use local, state and federal prevailing wage laws to target contractors they have a “beef” with.  Since most prevailing wage audits are triggered by a complaint (including 3rd party complaints), trade unions and certain union-friendly organizations can easily turn in a contractor with the general assertion that the contractor is not complying with applicable prevailing wage law. While contractors and merit shop trade associations could do likewise, they typically don’t for obvious business reasons.  Having concentrated my practice on ...

As we previously blogged about, the Illinois legislature passed Senate Bill 1480, which, in relevant part, provides that unless otherwise authorized by law, an employer may only consider an individual’s criminal conviction history if there is a substantial relationship between the criminal history and the position sought or held, or if the employer can show that the individual’s employment raises an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public. Governor Pritzker has now signed the bill into law – which went into ...

Private employers in Illinois now have more landmines to navigate as the state’s legislature pushed through SB1480 during its most recent “lame duck” session.  Gov. Pritzker just signed the legislation into law today!  While there are many substantive provisions and amendments to various laws contained in SB1480 (including new restrictions on the use of criminal convictions as we blogged about previously), the law also amends the Illinois Business Corporation Act (IBCA) and the Illinois Equal Pay Act (IEPA); resulting in unprecedented compulsory reporting of race ...

Contractors, developers, architects, owners, project managers and even public bodies often ask the same obvious question when dealing with any type of prevailing wage ordinance or law, “what are my obligations?”  While everyone involved in public construction projects want to comply with prevailing wage mandates, more often than not those involved in such projects are either oblivious to their responsibilities or are mistaken in their belief as to such responsibilities. This is not surprising in light of the great variance in prevailing wage laws, related rules and ...

Illinois has long limited employers from considering the criminal history of an applicant or employee in making employment decisions. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from considering an employee’s arrest history, for example. In recent years, Illinois’ “Ban the Box” law disallows employers from asking about criminal convictions prior to a job offer or before a candidate is selected for an interview and, therefore, assumed to be otherwise qualified for the position in question. Now, Illinois is poised to go a step further in banning the use of criminal ...

As new information unfolds surrounding our understanding of COVID-19, and seeing that the odds appear to be increasing on who may actually get the virus, employers need to be vigilant in examining whether or not an employee contracts the virus at work or in the course of their employment.  In order to assist employers in this exercise and help them possibly defend against legal challenges later (including workers compensation claims), the following updated questionnaire and HR checklist may be useful. The questionnaire and checklist should be kept confidential and used only by ...

Back in early 2019, one of the very first actions taken by the new administration in Illinois was to amend the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (IPWA).  While many changes took effect in 2019, one material change was set to become effective April 1, 2020. This change requires all contractors to submit their monthly certified transcript of payroll via the Illinois Department of Labor’s electronic database. To be clear, the Certified Transcript of Payroll submission under Illinois’ Prevailing Wage Act is now electronic and should be utilized by all contractors beginning with the ...

As we now know, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires covered employers to provide employees with paid sick leave — under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) — for specified reasons related to COVID-19 starting April 1. These reasons include: because the employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.

Many states and local governments have now mandated shelter-in-place (SIP) or stay-at-home orders.

The question facing many employers is whether these SIP orders trigger the paid leave ...

On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Bill 6201 (HR6201). The legislation seeks to protect private sector workers and government employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the legislation does not apply to any private sector employer with 500 or more employees. To be clear, the current legislation will regulate only those private sector employers who employ less than 500 employees. The Senate is expected to take up the bill early this week. The legislation would take effect within 15 days of enactment and expire on ...

Back on December 16, 2019, we reported on the issuance of new regulations by the Trump administration that effectively repealed the 2014 “Quickie Election” Rule issued by the Obama National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The 2019 Final Rule, set to take effect on April 16, 2020, was designed to facilitate employers’ efforts to fight private sector labor unions in election cases. It provided more time to react to and educate the workforce on the “Good, Bad & Ugly” of union representation. As we noted before, in issuing the notice of the new regulations, NLRB Chairman ...

On December 13, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued notice of new regulations designed to materially change what is commonly referred to as the “Quickie Election” Rule. The new regulations, set to take effect on April 16, 2020, will materially help employers combat labor unions in the private sector by primarily providing more time to react to and educate the workforce on the “Good, Bad & Ugly” of what union representation actually means to workers.  

As a brief reminder… the “Quickie Election” Rule is a set of unprecedented regulations that the Obama ...

As Illinois set out to become the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through statutory authority, the legislative intent for protections for employers and the workplace were intended to include some of the strongest in the nation. However, when the dust settled and the statutory framework was analyzed, there appeared to be room for reasonable minds to have differing opinions on what the law actually meant for the workplace.

On one hand, could employers lawfully implement reasonable, non-discriminatory drug testing policies aimed at prohibiting applicants and ...

On August 13, 2019, Illinois Comptroller, Susana Mendoza, signed an Executive Order (EO) aimed at enforcement of the state’s prevailing wage law (aka mandatory top line union wage/benefits scale) for “construction” projects receiving state money. On the surface, one would say “hey, that’s a pretty good idea.”  But… the EO invites more questions than answers.  More importantly, it encourages organized labor to target contractors that they have disputes with (without any proof or evidence of actual non-compliance with prevailing wage law) and the Comptroller may ...

MAJOR CHANGES TO ILLINOIS EMPLOYMENT LAWS:  NEW MANDATORY SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING, REPORTING AND DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS, RESTRICTIONS ON EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENTS, & SEVERAL OTHER MANDATES

ATTENTION Illinois employers of ALL sizes… Are you ready?  Today (August 9, 2019), Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 75 – the Workplace Transparency Act – into law.  Effective January 1, 2020, major new changes will forever alter how Illinois employers manage harassment and discrimination issues as well as other workplace controversies.

In fact, the changes will require ALL ...

Organized labor wasted no time in securing Governor Pritzker’s signature on legislation that undoubtedly calls for the Illinois prevailing wage rate to fall in lock step with the area union contracts. Per the new law, now in effect, the prevailing rate of wages paid to individuals covered under Illinois’ prevailing wage law shall not be less than the rate that prevails for work of a similar character on public works in the locality in which the work is performed under collective bargaining agreements, or understandings between employers or employer associations and bona fide ...

t appears Illinois will become the 11th state to permit recreational cannabis. Once Governor Pritzker signs the legislation, as promised, beginning January 1, 2020, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“Act”), will allow adults (21+) in Illinois to possess and consume cannabis. While there is a lot “rolled” into the 600 plus page law (pun intended), there are significant employment pitfalls for employers with regard to enforcing drug free workplaces.

The Act expressly permits employers to adopt and enforce “reasonable” and nondiscriminatory zero ...

Having handled countless prevailing wage disputes, the local, state or federal administrative agency assigned to administer compliance (i.e. the US Department of Labor) is the only government entity that can lawfully determine whether a contractor is in violation of an applicable prevailing wage law and push for debarment.  Ultimately, a contractor who has been determined by a government agency to have violated its prevailing wage obligations (i.e. a clerical mistake, an accounting error, poor or missing paperwork) is a long way from getting on a “debarment list.” First, in ...

You may not remember… in 2013, then Governor Quinn signed into law an amendment to Illinois’ Prevailing Wage Act (IPWA) which sort of redefined what the PREVAILING WAGE RATE meant by adding one little word.  Effective January 1, 2014, the IPWA defined “general prevailing rate of hourly wages” as hourly cash wages plus ANNUALIZED fringe benefits.  By inserting the word ANNUALIZED, the law arguably changed. 

For years, many contractors paid the prevailing wage fringe benefits as cash sums added to the employee paycheck based on prevailing wage hours only. Some contractors ...

When was the last time you conducted an HR audit for your organization?

We’re all busy and get distracted easily. Often times HR considers a thorough review of the Employee Handbook is enough to ensure all is well from a legal compliance perspective as to personnel policies and practices. Not quite. A closer examination of an employer’s forms, contracts, procedures, practices and actual day-to-day management is essential. In other words, a deeper dive into an organization’s HR-universe is necessary these days. In a world of increased workplace regulation and litigation ...

2017 is coming to an end, and with somewhat of a Bang! for labor relations moving forward under Trump’s NLRB.  In a matter involving PCC Structurals, Inc. and the Intern’l Assoc. of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (19-RC-202188), the NLRB this month overruled its 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934, and reinstated the traditional community-of-interest standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in union representation cases.  The essence of the 2017 decision is that the National Labor Relations Act mandates ...

In a protest against President Trump’s immigration policies and plans, organizers around the country are coordinating a national protest day set for Friday, February 17th — encouraging workers to “walk out” or “don’t work” if they can. Some workplaces are already being impacted, and Friday could be chaotic.

In response to this activity, employers should keep in mind the following:

  1. Don’t overreact and cause more chaos (remain calm, stay cool);
  1. Turn to one’s regular attendance policies. For example, a single “no call, no show” in one instance results in what ...

On July 1 (one week from today), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Persuader Rule goes into effect.  The rule requires employers and labor consultants (including attorneys) to publicly report all actions, conduct, or communications that have a direct or indirect objective to persuade employees regarding their rights to collective bargaining, to obtain certain information concerning employee activities, or to persuade employees as to their rights to join or not join a union – which can include mere advice and counsel from attorneys (e.g., supervisor training, handbook ...

Today the US Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued its long awaited final rule increasing the minimum salary requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt.

Of particular significance, the Final Rule:

  1. Sets the standard salary level at $913 per week – $47,476 annually;
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal ...

As we anticipated and previously discussed, on August 27, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued its ruling in the closely watched Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (BFI) case (Case 32-RC-109684). In rejecting over 30 years of precedent and the underlying Administrative Law Judge’s ruling on the issue, the NLRB’s pro-union majority established a new standard for determining joint-employer status. While the decision related to a company’s engagement of a subcontractor supplying workers, the NLRB’s new joint-employer standard will ...

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has announced that they are issuing a proposed rule to increase the minimum salary requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act for exempt employees. The final proposed rule will be issued in the Federal Register and will provide a comment period for the public.

The proposed rule sets forth guidance and requests comment on the following proposed changes:

  1. Set the minimum salary level to qualify for the white collar exemptions at 40% of the national weekly earnings for full-time salaried employees ($921 per week or $47,892 ...

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations (FMCSR) set forth rules and regulations for employment applications involving applicants applying to drive commercial motor vehicles. (See 49 C.F.R. § 391.21).  Section 391.21 has been adopted in most states (for example, Illinois law recognizes Section 391.21 pursuant to Title 92 of the Illinois Administrative Code).

FMCSR specifically requires applicants completing a commercial driver application to (1) list all violations of motor vehicle laws or ordinances (other than parking) of which the applicant was ...

Franchisors across the U.S. may be surprised to learn that the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board has taken the position that they are likely joint employers with their franchisees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  The announcement came in the context of finding joint liability for alleged unfair labor practices, but the true impact and purpose is to open the door to unionization of all employees of local franchises as a single bargaining unit of the corporate franchisor.

Since 2012, the NLRB has received 181 complaints from employees of ...

The Illinois “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act” has been approved by the Illinois legislature. It was sent to Governor Quinn on June 27, 2014, and he is expected to sign it into law.

Once signed (or if the Governor doesn’t veto it by August 27, 2014), the Act would go into effect January 1, 2015. Illinois would become the fifth state on a growing list of states (currently Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Hawaii) to enact “ban the box” legislation that applies to public and private employers. Another five states (California, Colorado ...

HB 8, pushed through the Illinois Legislature and ready to be signed into law by Governor Quinn, amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to add to the list of employment discrimination, an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee based on conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. The new amendment will create a legal quagmire for Illinois employers. Employers currently must balance the rights of employees under the current Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal Family ...

Earlier today, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing his Secretary of Labor to update the regulations to expand the number of employees eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The president was expected to take more specific action based on statements made by White House personnel earlier this week, but he left virtually all of the details to the United States Department of Labor.

The president set the stage for the Department of Labor to narrow the exceptions to the FLSA by discussing the failure of the executive or ...

Earlier today the National Labor Relations Board announced proposed rule changes that will drastically speed the union election process, limit issues employers can raise in the pre-election process, and limit employers’ appeal rights. The proposed amendments are nothing new. Substantively identical changes – dubbed the “Quickie” or “Ambush” Election Rule — went into effect April 30, 2012 but was quickly invalidated when the D.C. Circuit ruled the Board did not have a quorum when it passed the rule changes. The amendments proposed today are open for public ...

Welcome to the Labor and Employment Law Update where attorneys from SmithAmundsen blog about management side labor and employment issues. 

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