Enacted in 2003, the Illinois Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for any employer, public or private, to pay men and women unequal wages based purely on difference in gender. Male and female employees with equal job skills, responsibilities, and effort under similar working conditions must be paid comparable wages.
While the original iteration of the law provided moderate penalties for violations of the Equal Pay Act, a 2016 update has increased penalties and expanded the types of businesses that must comply with the statute. Both employers and employees should be aware of the changes as regulators look to enforce compliance with the Act.
Under HB3619, all businesses must now pay men and women with equal jobs skills appropriately for the same work. Previously, only businesses with four or more employees were subject to the Act’s provisions. First-time fines for companies with less than four employees cannot exceed $500, second offenses cannot exceed $2,500, and third and subsequent offenses cannot exceed $5,000.
Now, businesses with four or more employees may be subject to more substantial penalties if allegations of unequal pay due to gender are true. First time offenses may incur a fine of $2,500, second offenses $3,000, and third and subsequent offenses top out at $5,000.
To determine the size of the fine, the Illinois Department of Labor will examine the size of the company and the gravity of the allegation. Theoretically, smaller business or those with minor differences in pay based on gender would be subject to less substantial fine while the inverse would be true for larger companies or those with especially egregious allegations.
The law allows employees to bring civil claims against their employers to recover the difference in their pay, interest on back wages, and reasonable attorneys fees incurred to recover the income. The Illinois Department of Labor may also step in to aid the plaintiff’s suit but plaintiffs are strongly encouraged to retain experienced legal counsel.
If you are an employee or an employer facing issues over unequal pay based on gender, contact the experienced Chicago employment attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich. Our office represents clients throughout Chicago and Cook County as well as Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.