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Illinois: Recent Amendments to Illinois Human Rights Act

Illinois has passed legislation against discrimination based on an individual’s authorization to work in the United States or due their association with a person with a disability.

Work Authorization Status. On August 2, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Public Act 102-0233, adding work authorization status to the list of protected classifications under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) making it a civil rights violation for discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their “work authorization status”. Effective immediately, an employer cannot discriminate in any employment action such as hiring, discipline, promotion or termination based on an employee’s work authorization status. Work authorization status is defined as the status of being a person born outside of the United States, and not a U.S. citizen, who is authorized by the federal government to work in the United States.

“Association” Disability Discrimination. The Illinois Legislature has passed an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (HB 1838), and was signed by Governor Pritzker on August 20, 2021. The new law adds to the definition of disability discrimination, “unlawful discrimination against an individual because of the individual’s association with a person with a disability.” This definition will align Illinois’ law with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, unlike the ADA which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, the IHRA applies to employers having one or more employees. The governor signed it into law on August 20 and will become effective on January 1, 2022.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should avoid collecting information about individuals’ specific work authorization status beyond what is needed to establish whether the individual is authorized to work for Form I-9 purposes. Employers should also review their employment applications and evaluate recruiting processes to ensure they are not relying on information that is now protected.

Employers should also update their employee handbooks including their equal employment and non-discrimination/non-harassment policies, and any related training materials to include the additional protected classes.

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