CHICAGO - Because the average woman in Illinois still earns hundreds of dollars less each week than the average man, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today warned employers that the state is serious about protecting the rights of women in the workplace. At Exelon Corporation in Chicago, the Governor launched the state’s Equal Pay Awareness Campaign. The campaign will help employers understand and follow equal pay laws and it will let women know how to file a complaint if the law is not being followed.
"Even though the federal Equal Pay Act was passed more than 40 years ago, last year women in Illinois were still paid only 71 cents for every dollar man earned. I am not willing to offer the women of Illinois only 71 percent of the American dream. I’m not willing to wait 40 more years for a woman to get paid the same as a man for doing the same work. It’s time for employers and employees to get the message – paying women less for doing the same work as men is illegal," Governor Blagojevich said.
The Governor’s Office and the Illinois Department of Labor are developing ways to equip employees and employers with a solid understanding of the law, as well as, to inform the public about their rights under this law. The $50,000 media campaign, budgeted in FY 2004, will include:
- 10,000 equal pay posters will be sent to the 10,000 largest employers in the state by the end of this month as a required posting. The poster will also be available on the internet in a downloadable version.
- 40,000 posters will be distributed to state, county, and local government employers, universities, committed organizations and women’s organizations throughout Illinois
- 3,500 equal pay posters will be displayed on buses and trains in the Chicago area, with the cooperation of the Chicago Transit Authority.
- The Chicago Sun Times will publish public service announcement about equal pay in their newspapers.
- Public service announcements explaining the Illinois Equal Pay Act will appear on television and radio stations during the summer months.
In addition to the visible reminders of the Equal Pay Act, the Illinois Department of Labor will hold briefings across the state to educate employees, employers, and advocacy groups about the Equal Pay Act of 2003. The training sessions, beginning within the next several months, will include multimedia CDs, equipped with electronic presentations, downloadable forms, an electronic version of the law, filing information, and commonly asked questions and answers. The CD is currently being developed and will likely be completed by mid-June. Information about Illinois equal pay laws is also available on the Illinois Department of Labor website, www.state.il.us/agency/idol.
In conjunction with efforts to educate employees and employers about the Equal Pay Act of 2003, the state is launching a toll-free number, 1-866-EPA-IDOL. The toll-free hotline will provide a forum in which to ask questions about equal pay laws and to file complaints. Complaints can also be filed directly at the Illinois Department of Labor. Complaints will be investigated and the Equal Pay Act protects women who file complaints from harassment or retaliation.
Governor Blagojevich signed the Equal Pay Act last year on Mother’s Day. The Equal Pay Act aims to eliminate the wage differential between men and women. Effective on January 1, 2004, the Illinois law expands the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Act protects an additional 330,000 Illinois workers, enhances enforcement of the statute by requiring employers to post a notice in their workplace summarizing workers’ rights under the act and provides for stiffer penalties for those who violate the law. If an employer is found guilty of pay discrimination, they will be required to make up the wage difference to the employee, pay legal costs and may be subject to civil fines of up to $2,500 per violation.
"I was proud to sign that bill, which gives every woman in Illinois the right to equal pay for equal work. Now in Illinois, if a woman does the same work as a man and she doesn’t get paid the same as a man – that’s against the law. But, it’s not enough for us to just put a new law on the books. Now, we need to make sure the law gets obeyed and the law is enforced," said the Governor.
Since taking office more than a year ago, Governor Blagojevich has taken a series of steps toward improving the health and well-being of Illinois women. This week, the state launched the Illinois Health Women program, ambitious new state program aimed at helping women who are leaving the Medicaid program to avoid unplanned pregnancies and providing them with reproductive health care. Last July, the Governor signed House Bill 211, requiring insurance providers that cover prescription drugs to also cover all FDA approved contraceptive drugs and devices. And, despite record budget deficits, the Governor earmarked $10 million to the state program that provides mammograms, breast exams and pap smears to low-income women without health insurance and expanded Illinois KidCare and FamilyCare health insurance programs to include 100,000 more children, parents and seniors.
As Illinois takes the necessary next step toward achieving fairness for working women, Governor Blagojevich thanked State Senator Carol Ronen, State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie and Margaret Blackshere of the AFL-CIO for their hard fought efforst on behalf of women. The Governor thanked the prominent women who are adding their support to the outreach campaign, including Exelon Executive Vice President Pam Strobel, Katie Jordan, president of the Chicago Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and Lauren Sugerman, president of Chicago Women in Trades.
"As we launch this campaign to enforce the Illinois Equal Pay Act, we need to remember how important this bill is, not just to women, but to entire families. How can we expect mothers to take care of their children and get ahead in this world when they’re not getting paid enough to cover the basic necessities of life? With the Illinois Equal Pay Act, we are making a promise to working women and their families: if you work hard, we’ll make sure you’re paid fairly," said the Governor.
The Illinois Department of Labor just issued the 2004 Progress of Women and Minorities Report. A copy is available to download on the website at www.state.il.us/agency/idol.