There are several new laws taking effect in Illinois on Wednesday, ranging from a minimum wage increase to new education requirements in schools and mandated training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Here's a look at 10 of the measures taking effect:
Minimum Wage Increase
Minimum wage workers are getting a raise for the second time this year. Under this new law, the minimum wage increases from $9.25 to $10 per hour, following a $1 increase at the beginning of the year. On Jan. 1, 2021, it will increase again to $11 per hour and keep climbing until it reaches $15 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2025.
Gas Tax Increase
Illinois’ gas tax doubled last year to 38 cents per gallon to fund road improvement. A 0.7 cent-per-gallon increase takes effect July 1, mandated under a new formula tying the tax to the rate of inflation.
Stronger Penalties for Texting and Driving
This measure amends the Illinois Vehicle Code to establish a 12-month license suspension and minimum fine of $1,000 for a driver who causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement to another person while texting and driving.
Stronger Penalties for Drivers Who Injure Someone While Violating Right-of-Way
This new law establishes a 12-month license suspension for a motorist who, while violating the right-of-way at crosswalks and in school zones, causes serious injury to another person.
No License Suspension for Failing to Pay Fines
The Illinois secretary of state will not be allowed to suspend a person’s driver’s license or vehicle registration for failing to pay a fine or penalty on time under this new law, with legislators expressing the belief that a person still has the right to drive to work despite not being able to afford a driving ticket.
LGBTQ History Taught in Schools
LGBTQ history must be taught in Illinois public schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year. The bill also requires schools to purchase textbooks that are “non-discriminatory” and “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.”
Civics Education in Schools
This requires requires the state’s public schools to teach at least one semester of civics any time between sixth and eighth grades. The lessons must focus on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues and simulations of the democratic process.
Sexual Harassment Prevention and Annual Training
This measure makes it a civil rights violation for an employer to harass an employee based on race, religion, age, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy, citizenship status and more. It also delineates that an employer is responsible for harassment done by employees, consultants and contractors if the employer becomes aware of the conduct and "fails to take reasonable corrective measures." Companies must disclose to the Illinois Department of Human Rights each year any judgments, rulings or settlements against them related to harassment or discrimination.
The new law also requires every employer to provide sexual harassment prevention training once a year, and all restaurants and bars are required to provide a sexual harassment policy to all employees in writing within the first week of their employment. Hotels and casinos must also, in addition to supplying employees working in areas alone safety or notification devices to call for help if needed, include in an anti-sexual harassment policy a provision allowing employees to take paid time off to file a police report or criminal complaint.
All Employees Protected From Discrimination
The size of an employer will no longer determine whether workers will be protected from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion and a range of other protected categories. The definition of employer in the Illinois Human Rights Act was changed to mean anyone employing one or more person in the state for 20 or more weeks within the calendar year. Previously, employer was defined under the act as having 15 or more people under employment.
Government's Coronavirus Response
This new measure makes several changes to Illinois law, particularly as it relates to state government's approach to the coronavirus pandemic. It establishes the Restore llinois Collaborative Commission, a commission with 14 members from the House and Senate to address efforts to revive various sectors of Illinois' economy amid the pandemic. It also allows meetings by government bodies to be conducted by audio or video conference if the governor or Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a disaster declaration related to public health concerns and if meeting in person would be impractical.
To see a list of 50 new laws that took effect in Illinois at the beginning of the year, click here.