'Wages and Weed' forum looks at how new laws impact company policies

ROCKFORD,Ill. (WIFR) - After Illinois lawmakers ok'ed recreational marijuana in late May and approved an increase to the minimum wage, business owners across the state started assessing their policies.

"Safety is our number one concern," said Human Resources Manager at Nuestro Queso, Amanda Maestas.

Maestas found the "Wages and weed" forum eye-opening.

"Everyday things are changing and new laws and just be able to sit here and have someone bring that up it's so beneficial,” Maestas said.

Nearly one-hundred Stateline employers sat through Friday’s presentation by Rockford Attorney Jim Pirages.

"The Illinois cannabis act expressly allows employers to maintain a reasonable zero-tolerance and drug-free workplace policies, as well as the policy’s concerning drug testing, smoking, consumption, storage or use of cannabis at work or while on call provided that the policy is used in a nondiscriminatory matter,” Pirages said.

While the new marijuana law will affect businesses in January first, the Illinois wage law changes mean a longer-term impact and a significant change in daily operations for many.

"The stepping stones for the Illinois wage law noted here on this slide. January one 2020 it goes to nine twenty-five an hour, midway through next year it goes to ten dollars an hour and then there is a dollar increase on January one 2021 through 2025 until our minimum wage hits fifteen dollars,” Pirages said.

Many employers say forums offer a level of comfort in an ever-changing business landscape.

"You learn something new every time you go to one of these conferences so it's very beneficial," Maestas said.

Pirages also touched on the workplace transparency act which is meant to protect employers from workplace discrimination and harassment.