As Americans, we expect to be able to find work so we can get paid a wage that allows us to live, and we also expect our wages to be fair. Our belief in being paid fair wages is engrained in our culture as we have a long history of American workers fighting for fair payment and treatment. From the Industrial Revolution to the Civil Rights Act and even up to the present time, Americans have fought to get the pay, benefits, and working conditions that we believe we deserve.
One point of emphasis in the ongoing struggle for fair wages and working conditions has been the gender pay gap. There was a point in American history in which women were largely absent from the workforce except for a few professions. In the post war era, women have made great strides in not only becoming part of the workforce, but also in rising through the ranks to positions of leadership including administrative and even CEO positions. However, this rise in the workforce has not been without its struggles as women have had to fight for equal pay and benefits.
In 2003, the State of Illinois passed the Illinois Equal Pay Act which became effective on January 1, 2004. This Act was enacted to guarantee that workers in Illinois would be protected from wage discrimination based on gender for men and women who perform the same or similar work. While this Act is similar to the federal Equal Pay Act in its prohibition of gender-based wage discrepancies, it does differ from the federal Act in key ways. Under the Illinois Equal Pay Act, employees have the right to enquire about wage information from their employers, and they have the right to sue employers if they are in violation of this act.
All workers in Illinois should be aware of the provisions of the Illinois Equal Pay Act so that they understand their rights as employees. If you believe your employer is violating this act, you can either sue or file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor. No matter which of these actions you take, you will need the assistance of a business attorney to work on your case.
What is the Illinois Equal Pay Act?
As explained above, the Illinois Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for any employer in the State of Illinois to pay unequal wages to men and women who do essentially the same work. The job titles given to male and female workers are irrelevant under this Act. There are several exceptions to the requirement for equal pay that include pay based on merit systems, productivity, seniority, and other factors that are not gender based. All public and private employers in Illinois, no matter their size, must follow the Illinois Equal Pay Act.
Provisions of the Illinois Equal Pay Act
The Illinois Equal Pay Act consists of several provisions that make it different from the federal Equal Pay Act. The provisions of this act are described in more detail below:
- Under the Act, employers may need to disclose information including the wages, bonuses, and merit pay increases of other employees to those who inquire. Disclosing this information allows employees to enforce their rights.
- This Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who have filed a complaint regarding the Act. Employers are also prohibited from interfering with employees exercising their rights under the Act as well as retaliating against employees who inquire about information needed to enforce their rights. This anti-retaliation provision also entitles employees to more than just the difference in underpayment, including back pay, front pay, and lost benefits.
- This Act requires employers to keep records of its employees, including their names, addresses, occupations, and wages.
Responding to Violations of the Illinois Equal Pay Act
If any employee, man or woman, believes that they are receiving unequal pay from their employer according to this Act, the employee can either submit a complaint to the Illinois Department of Labor, or file a lawsuit against their employer.
Illinois Department of Labor Complaint
If you file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor, you must file a complaint of the violation within one year. The Department will then investigate the claim and demand that the employer compensates you for the difference in wages and pay you any civil penalties. The additional penalties are determined by the employer’s size and their history of violations under the Act.
If you choose to file a lawsuit against your employer, you must file your suit within 5 years of the violation. In a lawsuit, you may be entitled not only to your underpaid wages, but also to interest on those wages as well as legal fees for your attorney. You can also hold officers and agents of your employer liable in a civil suit.
Business Law Attorneys
The Illinois Equal Pay Act is an important piece of legislation in our state that protects workers from wage discrimination based on gender. If you are a worker in Illinois, it is wise to be familiar with this Act and its provisions to ensure that you are getting fair pay from your employer. If you believe that your rights are being violated by your employer under this Act, contact the business law attorneys of Allen Gabe Law, P.C. Our attorneys will advise you on your best course of action and we will provide you with legal representation if you file a lawsuit against your employer.
You can call Allen Gabe Law, P.C. at (847) 241-5000, Ext 121 for a free initial consultation.