CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Illinois has won its first Equal Pay Act case in court resulting in thousands of dollars in owed wages for a female employee. The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) found that Main Street Liquors located at 2000 W. Madison Street in Chicago violated the Act by paying a male clerk a higher wage for performing the same work as a female clerk formerly employed at the store. On Jan. 17, 2007, a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the State and ordered the employer to pay $4,061 in backwages and $8,122 in penalties to the employee, making this the State’s first equal pay case won in court since the law went into effect in 2004.
“This isn’t just a victory for one employee, but for all women and workers across Illinois who deserve to get paid equally for doing the same work. This significant step shows how hard our state is working to make pay equity a reality in the workplace. This also sends a strong reminder to employers that paying women less than men for the same work is illegal and unfair,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Equal Pay Act complaint was filed by a female clerk when she learned that a male clerk was paid more for performing the same work. After investigating the complaint, IDOL found Main Street Liquors in violation of the Equal Pay Act and on June 30, 2005 demanded that the employer pay backwages to the complainant. The employer refused to comply with the Department’s demand, making it necessary for the Department to seek the assistance of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to recover the wages and to collect penalties for delaying payment of wages due the employee.
“The Equal Pay Act is the best law and I'm glad that I knew about it early on. I advise anyone who needs help getting wages owed to them to go to the Illinois Department of Labor because they can help. Thank you, Governor Blagojevich, for this law and for keeping hardworking people in mind,” said Mary A., claimant.
Since the law took effect in 2004, the Department has responded to thousands of calls on the 1-866-EPA-IDOL toll-free hotline, has received 305 complaints and has prompted settlements between employees and employers. Of the investigations completed by the Department to date, including this most recent equal pay case, nearly $74,000 in backwages and more than $8,000 in penalties will have been paid to employees.
“I’m proud of our Department’s hard work and commitment to ensure the Equal Pay Act is enforced to the fullest extent. We will continue to conduct outreach on the law to ensure that employees know their rights to equal pay and that employers are aware of the obligations under the law,” said Catherine Shannon, Director, IDOL.
Gov. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Equal Pay Act in 2003 to address the wage gap between men and women, extending protections from gender-based discrimination in pay to an additional 330,000 workers. The Act expanded the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by covering more workers, providing better enforcement mechanisms and improving public awareness.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act prohibits employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women doing the same or substantially similar work, requiring equal skill, effort, responsibility and under similar working conditions. There are exceptions: such as if the wage difference is based upon a seniority system, merit system, a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or factors other than gender. The law protects both men and women from pay disparity and any individual who files an equal pay complaint is protected from harassment or retaliation under the Act.
For more information on Illinois’ Equal Pay Act or to file a complaint, call the Illinois Department of Labor’s Equal Pay hotline at 1-866-EPA-IDOL
. Complaint forms are also available in a downloadable format at www.state.il.us/agency/idol.