Illinois Company Handbook Updates for 2017

Now that we are halfway through the 4th quarter of 2016, it is time to start making changes to your 2017 company handbook. There are a number of Illinois law updates to keep in mind as you make changes.


date2017The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) was recently amended with changes that will go into effect on January 1, 2017. VESSA provides victims of domestic or sexual violence with unpaid leave to seek medical attention, obtain victim services or counseling, for safety planning, or to seek legal guidance. The existing law gives 8 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 15-49 employees and 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 50 or more employees. The amendment to the law provides 4 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 14 or less employees.

For more information on VESSA leave, please visit the IL Department of Labor Website.

Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA)

This is a new law that takes effect on January 1, 2017 and affects all employers who provide paid sick or personal time to their employees. This law does not require employers to provide additional paid sick or personal time to employees (not to be confused with the Chicago Paid Sick Leave law) but rather says that if you already provide paid time off to employees to use for their own illness or injury, you must allow them to also use these benefits for the illness, injury or medical appointment of a family member.

The law allows employers to limit the amount of time an employee can use to care for a family member to the amount that they would normally accrue in six months.  The ESLA defines family member as a child, grandchild, spouse (or domestic partner), parent, stepparent, mother or father-in-law and sibling.

Illinois Child Bereavement Leave Act

We sent a communication regarding this law on August 26th, 2016. To read that communication, click here.

Chicago Paid Sick Leave Law

We sent a communication regarding this law on August 12th, 2016. To read that communication, click here.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act-  Update

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act was signed into legislation in January of 2015 with the intention of being rolled out in 2017. Recently, the Illinois Treasury Department has released information stating that the program will not be rolled out until 2018 or maybe even 2019. This gives employers more time to prepare but it is still something to keep in the back of your mind!

For more information on this program, please visit the Illinois Dept of Treasury Website.

eStratEx Updates Coming!

An Exciting New Look Is On The Way

We’re excited to share a sneak preview of some upcoming page design changes that are aimed at improving the user experience in eStratEx. As we have continued to add new features into eStratEx, we have recognized the need to improve and reevaluate the process for the most common functions. In the coming month, we will be introducing a new layout starting with the Myself and Team pages.

Here are our goals for these new pages:

  1. Standardize: We want the look and feel of each page to be as familiar as possible. Therefore, we are ensuring that the new pages use the same collection of buttons and tables.
  2. Reorganize: Some system features have grown to the point where reorganization is warranted. For example, we will be separating out the previous “Pay & Benefits” section into separate “Pay” and “Benefits” pages. We will also introduce tabs on some pages for commonly shared functions, like editing Dependents on the main Benefits Summary page.
  3. Visualize: For the first time, we are adding charts and graphs to our pages! For example, there will now be a timeline of salaries on the “Pay Change” page and a graph with a breakdown of the total earnings on the new “Pay Information” page. We want users to have more ways to comprehend information apart from just tables and numbers.

Below are screenshots of some of these new pages. More information with specific details will be communicated in the coming weeks!


Total Compensation
blog2 Pay History

Dear StratExians… a letter from Adam

My fellow StratExians,

As I slowly come out of the fog of the surprise election results, I awake with a new vigor that a vote without action is not good enough.

skyline-office-viewWhen I sit in my office, looking out at beautiful views of the city we call home, Chicago, I am left with a strong conviction that being a citizen of this amazing city has certain civic responsibilities. As I read that the murder rate has gone from a sad number to an unconscionable one, I realize that reading about it, watching it on TV and talking about it while we shake our heads in disbelief is NOT ENOUGH. This is not a West Side or South Side problem, this is a Chicago problem.

We are left with a few hard choices: pack up our bags and move away from the violence around us, complain about it and hope somebody will do something, or get involved, speak up and give back.

When we started StratEx Serves, it was under the guise of action through volunteerism. One of the many things I love about StratEx is our sense of community and our desire to make a difference, not only in the product and service we deliver to our clients, but by giving back in our community.

I honestly don’t know what to do; however, I know that we all need to get involved and do something.

One thought that has remained persistent for me is that with hope and belief that one’s life has value, a person is probably less likely to be involved in gangs or gun related activities. When opportunities are afforded to each person that allows them to have a slice of the American dream, that is one way to break the cycle.

I believe there is a strong parallel between the hopelessness that a suicide bomber feels in the Middle East that allows them to come to the decision to strap explosives on their body, and the despair and lack of opportunity that some of our inner-city youth feel that takes them to the point where they engage in gun-related vendettas.

When that hopelessness and despair become overwhelming, one might feel their life has no value — so they engage in reckless activity. Perhaps, my fellow StratExians, one answer is providing more opportunities to those who don’t see any. Perhaps this means getting more involved in after-school programs, mentoring teenagers, becoming involved in a Big Brother/Big Sister program while at the same time insisting that our city and nation make it harder to have access to assault rifles and other weapons of destruction.

I am open to your ideas. And I will lead by example. I will stand up and be heard. We can and must do our part to make our city safe for all of us. Otherwise, the alternative is to talk and complain or pack up and move. I don’t know about you, but I don’t quit and I don’t give up. Those are words that are not in my vocabulary and lessons I do not want to teach my children…

Humbly submitted,

Get to Know a StratExian: Alyssa Garza

Name: Alyssa Garza

alyssa1History at StratEx:
I started in June of 2014 as a Benefit Administrator and have continued to grow within this position. I help clients administer and maintain all benefit offerings for their employees, throughout the entire employee lifecycle — from new hire to COBRA.

How have you helped a client solve an HR or Benefit problem?
Our restaurant clients often have the same challenges: they have multiple benefit tiers (employees that are eligible vs. not eligible), multiple plan offerings (which can be location-based), and multiple locations with multiple location managers — all of which can make things a little chaotic at times.

However, we help them track it all. We are the one-stop shop for all locations and all employees when it comes to benefits — we take the headache away from them. Restaurants don’t necessarily have the time for this stuff, nor do they have people who truly understand the benefit/COBRA administration. I think that is why we are so helpful to them.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals!

What’s on your bucket list this year?
I don’t know about this year, but definitely want to make my way to Thailand! Have always loved elephants and would love to go to an elephant sanctuary out there.

Which Benefit topic is your Patronus?
It’s hard to just pick one when you deal with all of the different benefits on a daily basis, but COBRA administration has always kinda been my baby!

Are you an ice cream, or cookie/cake person?
Ice Cream — favorite is chocolate chip cookie dough.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
“Doesn’t always have a filter when speaking…” or, “Major OCD.” (Joe can speak to how much he loves my OCD!)

Favorite thing about working at StratEx:
The people, hands down!

Advice to new StratExians:
If you ever get overwhelmed — which I know none of us ever do — eat some candy and ask Emily Quinn to tell you a funny story 🙂


What’s this Health Insurance Marketplace Notice??

If your business has employees, there is a chance you may receive a notice in the mail from the Health Insurance Marketplace. This notice will let you know that you have an employee who submitted an application for health coverage through the ACA Marketplace and they have been determined to be eligible for a premium tax credit.

First: Don’t retaliate

Before we discuss what you need to do, it’s worth knowing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a non-retaliation provision. So if you receive a notice regarding one of your employees, it is very important to not take any retaliatory action towards that employee.

What does the notice mean for you?

If the employee receives a tax credit and you did not offer the employee affordable health care coverage, your company could be on the hook to pay the Employer Shared Responsibility Penalty to the IRS. If you are unfamiliar with these penalties, you can review this IRS Site for more information. Sample notice:


What if you did offer the employee coverage?

If you offered the employee coverage, this is your opportunity to appeal the notice. Here are some helpful hints when submitting an appeal:

  1. Download the Employer Appeal Request Form.
  2. The Marketplace will review appeals based on the following issues:
    a.  Whether or not the employee was offered health coverage that met the “minimum value standard”
    b.  Whether or not the health coverage you offered to the employee was “affordable”
    c.  Whether or not the employee chose to enroll in that health coverage
  3. To complete the appeal, fill out all of the necessary information, provide an explanation of your appeal, and then include supporting documents.
  4. Here is an outline of the documents you could use:


What if the employee was not offered coverage because he/she is not a full-time employee?

The Marketplace does not review eligibility based on employment status, but instead defers to the IRS to determine if an employer is subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Penalty. This information will be reported to the IRS through your 1095-C reports; however, it is still important to make sure you have documentation to support your reason for not offering benefits.

If I win my appeal, does that mean my company will not receive a penalty from the IRS?

The Marketplace cannot determine if an employer owes a Shared Responsibility Penalty, as that determination is made by the IRS. With that being said, if a Marketplace appeal is decided in the employee’s favor, this could prevent the Marketplace from reporting to the IRS that an employer received a credit, or could reduce the period for which the employee was reported as receiving a credit. This process is still so new that we are waiting to learn more about how the IRS will assess and distribute penalties and if there will be an appeal process for employers to utilize.

Need Assistance?

If you are a current StratEx client, and have questions or need assistance with an appeal, you can always reach out to your HR Account Manager. If you are not a current client, contact us for more information on how we can help you work through questions around the ACA, Payroll, Benefits, and HR.