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2020 Recap and 2021 Forecast for Missouri and Illinois Employment Law
By Lauren Daming, Katherine Fechte on January 8, 2021 at 12:30 PM

In a year dominated by the pandemic, 2021 updates to Missouri and Illinois law are overshadowed by COVID-19’s impact and related federal employment law developments. Illinois’ treatment of July as the new January adds to the relatively quiet start to 2021 while the state adapts to its new employment laws that went into effect July 1, 2020.

For 2020 federal employment law updates and a look at recent Supreme Court developments, a summary can be found here.


Missouri state minimum wage increases

Missouri begins the year with a new minimum wage of $10.30 per hour, representing an 85-cent increase from 2020’s minimum hourly wage. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industry’s new minimum wage poster is available here.

St. Louis Ban the Box ordinance goes into effect

Effective January 1, 2021, St. Louis city employers with 10 or more employees are subject to the city’s “Ban the Boxordinance. Covered employers are prohibited from:

  • Basing a hiring or promotion decision on an applicant’s criminal history unless the decision is based upon an assessment of a variety of factors related to the criminal history and the criminal history is related to the duties and responsibilities of the job position;
  • Inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until the applicant has been interviewed and determined to be qualified for the position, but only if all applicants in the final selection pool receive the same criminal history inquiry;
  • Publishing job advertisements excluding job applicants on the basis of criminal history;
  • Including statements excluding applicants on the basis of criminal history on job application and hiring forms;
  • Inquiring into or requiring an applicant to disclose his or her criminal history on an initial job application form; and
  • Seeking to obtain publicly available information concerning job applicants’ criminal history.

These requirements do not apply in circumstances when applicable law prohibits employers from employing individuals with certain criminal histories. The St. Louis City Civil Rights Enforcement Agency is responsible for investigating complaints regarding violations of the statute. Penalties for violations include warnings, civil penalties, and revocation of business licenses.

Medical marijuana meets the workplace

Missouri’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors at the end of 2020. With over 66,000 Missourians holding cards to purchase medical marijuana, employers may now see issues arising with employees possessing or being under the influence of marijuana while at work. Despite Missouri’s law, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Missouri’s medical marijuana law specifically provides that employees may not bring a claim for wrongful discharge or discrimination because the employer prohibited the employee from being under the influence of marijuana while at work or disciplined the employee for working or attempting to work while under the influence of marijuana.


Illinois, Chicago and Cook County minimum wage increases

Illinois’ minimum wage increased to $11 per hour on January 1, 2021, and will increase $1 each year until it reaches $15 per hour on January 1, 2025. The Chicago minimum wage increased to $14 per hour on July 1, 2020, for employers with more than 21 employees, and the Cook County minimum wage increased to $13 per hour on July 1, 2020, unless the employees work in a municipality that has opted out of the Cook County minimum wage ordinance. The Illinois Department of Labor’s 2021 “Your Rights Under Illinois Employment Laws” poster can be found here. Chicago’s required Labor Standards notice can be found here.

Changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act

Effective July 1, 2020, the Illinois Human Rights Act applies to any employer with at least one employee working within Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks during the current year, or during the year preceding the alleged discrimination violation. The act previously only applied to employers with 15 or more employees.

The Workplace Transparency Act takes effect

Most of the requirements of the Workplace Transparency Act became effective January 1, 2020, including:

  • Expanding the scope of the Illinois Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on both an employee’s actual and perceived protected characteristics.
  • Expanding the Illinois Human Rights Act to apply to nonemployees, including contractors, vendors and consultants.
  • Requiring that employers using arbitration agreements make clear that claims of harassment and discrimination are excluded from arbitration requirements.
  • Beginning July 1, 2020, Illinois employers are required to submit an annual disclosure report to the Department of Human Rights that includes certain information about any adverse judgments entered against the company, as well as all settlement agreements entered into with employees involving claims of unlawful discrimination and/or harassment based on any protected characteristic.

Predictive scheduling requirements for Chicago employers

Chicago’s Fair Workweek Ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2020, and requires covered employers to provide covered employees with notice of their work schedule at least 10 days in advance. Schedule changes occurring after this 10-day period will require an employer to provide “predictability pay” to the impacted employee, or an extra hour at their regular pay rate. Covered employees are also entitled to premium pay at 1.25 times their regular pay rate if they agree to work within 10 hours of a prior day’s shift, and employers may not require employees to do so. Employees are covered by the ordinance if they work in one of seven covered industries (Building Services, Healthcare, Hotels, Manufacturing, Restaurants, Retail, and Warehouse Services), they make less than $26/hour or $50,000/year, and the employer has at least 100 employees globally (250 employees and 30 locations for a restaurant). The required Fair Workweek notice can be found here.

Annual mandatory sexual harassment training

As a reminder, Public Act 101-0221 amended the Illinois Human Rights Act requiring Illinois employers to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training by December 31, 2020, and annually thereafter.

Expansion of VESSA

Effective January 1, 2020, the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) now provides leave for victims of gender violence, which includes one or more acts of violence or aggression that is based on a person’s actual or perceived sex or gender, or a physical intrusion or invasion of a sexual nature under coercive conditions, either of which satisfies the requirements for any crime under state law.

Recreational marijuana is legalized

On January 1, 2020, Illinois legalized recreational marijuana under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Although marijuana can now be used recreationally by all adults age 21 and older, the act does permit employers to maintain reasonable workplace drug policies that prohibit employees from appearing for work while under the influence of marijuana, and that provide for reasonable and nondiscriminatory applicant and employee drug testing. Employers may continue to prohibit the use or possession of cannabis on all company property and may discipline employees or withdraw job offers for violations of company drug policies, which can include failing to pass a drug test. To establish that an employee is impaired or under the influence of marijuana, an employer must have a good-faith belief based on observation of specific, articulable symptoms of the employee's impairment. Additionally, upon finding an employee is impaired, the employer must allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to contest the employer’s determination.

If you have questions about any of these Missouri and Illinois updates or would like to discuss how your business may be affected, please contact any of the attorneys in our Employment & Labor group.

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