Chicago City Council Committee Approves Hands Off-Pants On Ordinance to Protect Hotel Employees

On October 2, 2017, the Chicago City Council Committee on Workplace Development and Audit approved an amendment to the Municipal Code (the “Ordinance”) that, if approved by the full City Council, will require hotel employers to equip hotel employees assigned to work in guestrooms or restrooms with portable emergency contact devices and develop and implement new anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures. The Ordinance is in response to multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment targeted at hotel employees by hotel guests.

The Ordinance in its current form will require hotel employers to (1) equip employees who are assigned to work in a guest room or restroom, under circumstances where no other employee is present in the room, with a panic button (at no cost to the employee) which the employee may use to summon help from other hotel staff if s/he reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence; (2) develop, maintain and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests; and (3) provide all employees with a current copy of the hotel’s anti-sexual harassment policy, and post the policy in conspicuous places in areas of the hotel where employees can reasonably be expected to see it.

With respect to the anti-sexual harassment policy mandates, employers must develop a policy that:

  • Encourages employees to immediately report to the employer instances of alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests;
  • Describes the procedures that the complaining employee and employer shall follow in such cases;
  • Affords the complaining employee the right to cease work and leave the immediate area where danger is perceived until such time that hotel security or the police arrive to provide assistance;
  • Affords the complaining employee the right, during the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel, to be assigned to work on a different floor or at a different station or work area away from the offending guest;
  • Provides the complaining employee with sufficient paid time to (a) file a complaint with the police against the offending guest, and (b) testify as a witness at any legal proceeding that may ensue as a result of such complaint;
  • Informs the employee that the Illinois Human Rights Act and Chicago Human Rights Ordinance provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; and
  • Informs the employee that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against any employee who reasonably uses a panic button or exercises any right under the Ordinance.

Employers in violation of the Ordinance would be subject to a fine between $250-$500 for each offense, and each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate and distinct offense.

Consequently, it is critical that Chicago hotel employers monitor the status of this Ordinance, which is now pending before the full City Council. If passed and signed into law, the Ordinance will take effect within 90 days of signature. Employers should consider preparations for providing panic buttons to those employees protected by the Ordinance and training hotel employees on their use, and revisiting anti-sexual harassment policies, whether stand-alone or included in employee handbooks, to ensure compliance with the Ordinance’s mandates. Additionally, employers should consider providing updated anti-sexual harassment and anti-retaliation training to all employees, including those who are assigned to work in guest rooms or restrooms, to ensure that all employees fully understand their employer’s policies and procedures.

This post was written by Shawn D. Fabian & Michael J. Roth of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP., Copyright © 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Tesla Bringing Supercharger Stations to Boston and Chicago

On September 11th, Tesla announced the opening of Supercharger stations in downtown Boston and Chicago, representing the first step in the company’s effort to expand its Supercharger network into urban areas. The company currently operates 951 Supercharger stations worldwide, primarily along major highways to provide quick recharging on long trips. By bringing the network of charging stations into city centers, Tesla hopes to service growing demand among urban dwellers without immediate access to home or workplace charging.

Unlike the Destination Charging connectors at hotels and restaurants meant to replicate the longer home-charging process, Superchargers quickly deliver 72 kilowatts of power to each car for short-term boosts, resulting in charging times around 45-50 minutes. The new stations will be installed near supermarkets, shopping centers, and downtown districts, making it easy for drivers to charge their car while running errands. The Boston Supercharger station will be located at 800 Boylston Street and include 8 charging stalls.

Tesla announced plans to double its national charging network to 10,000 stations by the end of 2017. The company is bringing urban Superchargers to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, and Austin by the end of this year. The expansion accompanies Tesla’s release of the Model 3 this summer, which boasts a lower starting price of $35,000 that is expected to bring more buyers to the brand.

A spike in Tesla sales would fall in line with the trend of increased demand for electric vehicles (EV) across the country. The year 2016 saw EV sales in the United States increase by 37% over 2015. Total EV sales topped out at roughly 160,000, with five different models (Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Fusion Energi) selling at least 10,000 units. These sales, coupled with the expanding ease of access to charging station’s like Tesla’s, bode well for continued innovation and growth in the electric auto sector.

This post was written by Thomas R. Burton, III of  Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved. ©1994-2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Collaboration That Works: 2017 LMA Technology Conference Midwest

The event will be held on September 25th and 26th at the University Club of Chicago. Check out more about this years Technology Conference Midwest and LMA!

 

The National Law Review is proud to be this year’s Metabyte Sponsor!

2017 Legal Marketing Technology Conference Midwest

The Legal Marketing Technology Conferences are the largest conferences dedicated to technologies that law firm professionals use to identify, attract and support clients. They provide the premier forum to learn from and network with thought leaders and colleagues. The National Law Review is proud to be one of this years Megabyte Sponsor’s!

This year’s LMATech Midwest conference theme is Collaboration That Works.

The event will be held on September 25th and 26th at the University Club of Chicago.

 

 

For more information on this years conference go to: https://www.legalmarketing.org/page/midwest-tech-2017

US Attorney’s Office in Chicago Announces Creation of Health Care Fraud Unit

Acting US Attorney Joel Levin says the new dedicated unit aims to bring “even greater focus, efficiency, and impact to our efforts in this important area.”

The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois recently announced the creation of a Health Care Fraud Unit—a team of five assistant US attorneys devoted to prosecuting all types of healthcare fraud cases, including fraudulent billing schemes and diversion of controlled substances.

The announcement came just days after the largest US Department of Justice national healthcare fraud enforcement “takedown” action against 412 defendants across 41 federal districts for the alleged participation in schemes involving over $1 billion in fraudulent healthcare billing. Fifteen individuals, including two Chicago-area licensed physicians, are facing federal criminal charges and potential Office of Inspector General (OIG) exclusion as a result of this action.

Nationwide, US Attorney offices have a major role in healthcare fraud enforcement. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, US Attorney offices opened 975 new criminal healthcare fraud investigations and 930 new civil healthcare fraud investigations.[1] 

While the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois has a long history of prosecuting healthcare fraud cases, the creation of a dedicated unit within the office may have a number of quantifiable effects, including the following:

Rise in Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions. The dedicated unit, comprised of criminal prosecutors, will focus on the criminal prosecution of entities and individuals when the alleged healthcare fraud rises to the level of criminal culpability. As such, there likely will be a rise in investigative activity that includes attempted interviews of potential targets, subjects, or witnesses by government agents; the issuance of grand jury subpoenas; and the execution of search warrants.

In addition, the criminal prosecutors undoubtedly will work closely with government attorneys assigned to the civil division and—to the extent permitted in accordance with grand jury secrecy rules—share certain information with civil division attorneys.

Rise in Enforcement Investigations and Actions. With increased focus, resources, and the sharing of information obtained from criminal investigations, there also may be a rise in the number of civil investigative demands issued to companies in the healthcare industry that are suspected of fraud, waste, and abuse. The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois may become more proactive in its efforts—alongside the OIG—to increase the collection of civil penalties against healthcare organizations and executives.

Rise in Qui Tam Suits. With a dedicated Health Care Fraud Unit, the Northern District of Illinois may become a more attractive venue for whistleblowers seeking to recover under the False Claims Act for alleged fraud, waste, and abuse.

The new Health Care Fraud Unit will operate within the criminal division of the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. Assistant US Attorney Heather McShain will lead the unit, and Assistant US Attorney Stephen Chahn Lee will serve as senior counsel.

For more Health Care news go to the National Law Review.


[1] See The Department of Health and Human Services and The Department of Justice Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2016.

This post was written by Tinos Diamantatos and  Eric W. Sitarchuk of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Chicago and Cook County Paid Sick Leave Laws Go Into Effect July 1: Are You Ready?

As the holiday weekend approaches, many employers in Chicago and Cook County find themselves scrambling to prepare for the Chicago and Cook County Paid Sick Leave Ordinances that will take effect this Saturday, July 1, 2017. The Ordinances, though straightforward in their purpose of providing some limited sick paid time off to employees, raise a number of thorny, confusing questions and various administrative concerns for all employers. To add to this uncertainty, the City of Chicago only yesterday released its extensive final interpretative rules on the City’s Ordinance, which raise a number of interpretative questions and, in places, appear to diverge from the previously-issued final rules of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights on the County’s Ordinance. Not only that, the list of Cook County’s municipalities that are opting out from the County’s Ordinance has been changing, literally, by the hour. To help you get up to speed and make any final necessary changes, in this Alert we will review some key requirements and provide responses to some FAQs employers have been asking related to paid sick leave in Chicago and Cook County.

Paid Sick Leave Requirements

The Ordinances require employers in Chicago and certain municipalities in Cook County to provide all employees, regardless of full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary status, with one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every for 40 hours worked, up to a maximum accrual cap of 40 hours in any benefit year. Employees are entitled to begin using accrued paid sick leave following 180 days of employment, provided they have worked at least 80 hours in any 120 day period.

Employees must be allowed to use paid sick leave for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee is ill, injured, or requires medical care (including preventive care);

  • A member of the employee’s family is ill, injured, or requires medical care;

  • The employee or a member of his or her family, is the victim of domestic or sexual violence; or

  • The employee’s place of business, or the childcare facility or school of the employee’s child, has been closed by an order of a public official due to a public health emergency.

In addition to providing employees with paid sick leave, employers are required to inform employees about their rights to paid sick leave by posting the Chicago and Cook County notices in the workplace and distributing these notices to employees with their first paycheck following the Ordinances’ effective date, or with any new employee’s first paycheck.

Frequently Asked Questions

When updating their employment policies and/or practices, employers should be mindful of the following frequently asked questions:

Do the Ordinances apply to all employees working in Chicago and/or Cook County?

The Ordinances are broadly worded such that employers are required to provide paid sick leave to all employees working in the geographic boundaries of the City of Chicago and/or Cook County. However, the Cook County Ordinance permits municipalities in Cook County to opt out of the Ordinance prior to its effective date.

So far, more than half of the municipalities in Cook County have opted out of the Cook County Ordinance, meaning that employers are not required to provide paid sick leave to employees working in these locations. However, if an employee should change work locations, or travel for work, into a municipality that has not opted out of the Cook County Ordinance (such as the City of Chicago), the employee would be entitled to accrue paid sick leave for hours worked in that municipality.

Are employees able to carryover accrued paid sick leave?

The Ordinances permit employees to carryover half of their accrued unused paid sick leave, up to a cap of 20 hours, into the next benefit year. Employees working for employers covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may carryover up to an additional 40 hours of paid sick leave into the next benefit year, to be used exclusively for FMLA-specific purposes.

Nonetheless, in most instances, employers may cap the amount of paid sick leave that an employee can use in a benefit year at 40 hours. The exception to this rule being that employees who carryover and use all 40 hours of FMLA-specific paid sick leave may use an additional 20 hours of regular paid sick leave in any benefit year. Thus, in limited circumstances employees may be able to use as many as 60 hours of paid sick leave in a single benefit year.

Are employers permitted to front-load paid sick leave?

Both Ordinances permit employers to front-load paid sick leave at the start of the benefit year, or at the time of hire. Employers who front-load paid sick leave do not need to track paid sick leave accrual or permit the carryover of paid sick leave into the next benefit year, provided that the requisite amount of paid sick leave has been front-loaded. The precise amount of paid sick leave to be front-loaded may depend on whether the employer is subject to FMLA and/or based in Chicago or Cook County, as their respective rules address front-loading differently. Employers with questions regarding the precise amount of paid sick leave that must be provided to employees should contact counsel.

Are employers able to provide paid time off in lieu of paid sick leave?

Employers may provide employees with paid time off (PTO) instead of paid sick leave, provided that all their employees are provided at least as much PTO as the Ordinances require to be made available for paid sick leave use in a benefit year. Employers should note, however, that accrued unused PTO must be paid out upon termination of employment. There is no such requirement to pay out accrued unused paid sick leave.

Recommendations

In light of the impending effective date for Chicago’s and Cook County’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinances, it is important that employers take any remaining necessary steps to ensure that their paid sick leave policies and practices will comply with the Ordinances. Policies that do not provide the requisite benefits to employees, or those that are silent on key issues such as paid sick leave accrual and/or usage restrictions, will be construed against the employer and could lead to costly violations.

This post was written by Alexis M. Dominguez and Sonya Rosenberg  of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.

Chicago Joins Growing Trend in Requiring Paid Sick Leave

paid sick leaveThe City of Chicago joined an emerging national trend when it unanimously passed an ordinance that requires employers to provide workers with paid sick days.

The change will go into effect on July 1, 2017, and expands benefits already provided under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA grants covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to attend to the serious health condition of the employee or a covered family member. In contrast, the Chicago ordinance requires businesses to provide eligible employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours of total paid sick leave in each 12-month period.

The ordinance, which is technically an amendment to Chicago’s minimum wage law, covers all employees who perform at least two hours of work within the City in any two-week period and who work at least 80 hours during any 120-day period. The ordinance applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees, that maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the City or who are subject to one of the City’s licensing requirements. The law permits employees to carry up to 2.5 paid sick days over to the following year, but does not require employers to pay employees for unused sick days.

New employees will be eligible to use paid sick days after an initial six-month probationary period. Employers who already offer paid time off that satisfies the requirements of
the ordinance will not be required to provide additional benefits.

Under the ordinance, employees will be able to use paid sick leave for their own illnesses, injuries, medical care or preventative care, or for the illnesses, injuries, medical care or preventative care of covered family members. Pursuant to the law, “family members” is construed broadly to include a child, legal guardian, spouse, domestic partner, parent, the parent of a spouse or domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or any other individual related by blood whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Employees also can use paid sick leave if they or their family members are victims of domestic violence or if their place of business or child care facility has been closed due to a public health emergency.

In passing the amendment, Chicago has added another potential landmine in the already tough- to-navigate employer/employee relationship. The ordinance allows employers to require that employees who use paid sick leave for more than three consecutive days provide certification that the leave was for a qualifying purpose. However, the ordinance prohibits employers from inquiring as to the specific nature of the medical issue. As such, employers should tread carefully when addressing employees’ health issues and corresponding requests for time off.

Currently, four states have laws requiring employers to issue paid sick leave benefits. Connecticut passed the first such law in 2011, followed by Massachusetts and California in 2014 and Oregon in 2015. Likewise, roughly 20 cities across the country have enacted similar regulations, including San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle and Philadelphia.

© 2016 Wilson Elser