Health care providers and custodial agencies operating in Illinois are now subject to new obligations under the Health Care Violence Prevention Act (210 ILCS 160/1 et seq.)(“HCVPA”), which went into effect on January 1, 2019. The HCVPA, which was enacted in response to two 2017 incidents involving inmates who assaulted hospital nurses, seeks to reduce the growing rates of violence against health care workers.

The HCVPA establishes both preventive and curative measures to protect health care workers. Health care providers are required to create an OSHA-compliant workplace violence prevention program. Each program must include:

(1) descriptions of the four classifications of workplace violence under the HCVPA;

(2) commitment by management and health care worker participation;

(3) worksite analysis and identification of potential hazards;

(4) hazard prevention and control;

(5) safety and health training (with required hours determined by rule); and

(6) recordkeeping and evaluation of the violence prevention program.

Hospitals and retail health care facilities are also required to provide resources to workers harmed by patients or their associates. Under the HCVPA’s guidelines, workers directly involved in an incident of workplace violence caused by a patients or their visitors have a right to employer-provided services, including acute treatment and access to psychological evaluation. Additionally, employers of health care workers must post notices in their facilities that detail zero tolerance for verbal aggression or physical assault. Notices must also inform violators that any physical assault will be reported to law enforcement. Rules detailing the requirements of the Notice (including size, format, etc.) have not yet been promulgated and no template Notice is currently available. The HCVPA prohibits management from preventing workers from reporting workplace violence to law enforcement, and any worker that contacts law enforcement or files a report with law enforcement must notify management of the underlying incident within three days. (Pursuant to 45 C.F.R. 164.512 (f)(5) and (j)(1), employees likely would not violate their obligations under HIPAA in directly reporting such an incident to law enforcement). A whistleblower provision further protects employees seeking to ensure the Act is enforced.

Hospitals and health care facilities are encouraged to collaborate with custodial agencies like the Department of Corrections to establish a protocol for committed patients that require treatment outside of custody. Custodial agencies must also comply with new guidelines under the law. Among these rules, custodial agencies must notify hospitals or medical treatment facilities of any significant medical, mental health, or violent safety concerns regarding a committed patient. Additionally, the HCVPA tasks custodial agencies with ensuring that guards or escorts accompany high-risk committed patients and that committed patients have the most comprehensive medical records practicable. The HCVPA also requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to establish curriculum for custodial agency training.

Health care providers are encouraged to post the required notices and update/create policies that comply with the HCVPA while awaiting additional rules and regulations from Illinois lawmakers.

In a major decision sure to provoke controversy and legislative attempts to overrule it, the en banc Seventh Circuit, by a vote of 8 to 4, has held in Kleber v. CareFusion Corp., (No. 17-1206, Jan 23, 2019), that Section 4(a)(2) of the federal Age Discrimination In Employment Act (“ADEA”) does not provide rejected external applicants with a cause of action.

The case was brought by Dale Kleber, a 58 year old applicant who applied for a position at CareFusion. The job description allegedly “required applicants to have ‘3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years)’” of relevant experience.

The Court focused closely on the text on §4(a)(2) which makes it unlawful for an employer:

to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age.

29 U.S.C. §623(a)(2).

The majority noted that by its express terms, §4(a)(2) “proscribes certain conduct by employer(s) and limits its protection to employees.” The majority finds the ADEA protections of the Section apply only to those with “status as an employee.” The majority also notes that Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in 1972 expressly to cover “applicants for employment” but never passed legislation expressly to cover applicants in §4(a)(2) of the ADEA.

The decision of the Seventh Circuit applies only to federal courts in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. But as an en banc decision (a decision by all the active judges of the Court) it may be given some greater consideration by other courts. Employers facing ADEA hiring discrimination claims by non-employee applicants, may want to consider a motion to dismiss or for judgment on the pleadings relying on Kleber or to assert the defense in appropriate EEOC proceedings.

It is by no means certain, however, that other courts will reach the same conclusion as the Seventh Circuit. It is also likely that EEOC will not follow this decision outside the Seventh Circuit. And as noted at the outset, a legislative effort to reverse the result of Kleber by amending §4(a)(2) expressly to cover applicants is highly likely. Such a proposal might well pass in the House of Representatives. Its fate in the Senate, however, would be more problematic. In addition, whether President Trump would sign such a bill, if it did pass, is open to conjecture.

In addition, employers should be aware that they certainly may face the same applicant age discrimination claims by outside applicants premised on state and local human rights laws. Such state and local laws generally do not have limiting language like that upon which the Seventh Circuit based its decision in Kleber. Moreover, while employers often prefer federal to state courts, Kleber may encourage age discrimination plaintiffs who are applicants simply to sue under state law in state courts.

Despite Kleber, employers should still take care not to provide outside applicants with a basis for asserting age discrimination in hiring claims under state or local laws with broader language covering such applicants or in federal courts that choose not to follow Kleber. This is especially true as there is already putative class litigation challenging employers and social media platforms and hiring sites that allegedly target or limit notices of particular job openings to those in certain age bands. Consulting with employment counsel about such candidate sourcing activities and the effects of Kleber may be prudent at this point in time.