CHICAGO – Continuing his efforts to close the wage gap in the workplace, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed today as Equal Pay Day in Illinois to remind workers of the state’s protections against wage discrimination based on gender. Equal Pay Day, originated in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), is observed nationwide on a Tuesday in April to underscore how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.
“Forty-five years after the federal equal pay law was passed, there’s still a big gap between what men and women are paid – even when they’re doing the same job. I took action in 2003 by signing a law to further protect workers in Illinois from wage discrimination, and earlier this year, we were proud to win our first court victory resulting in thousands of dollars in wages for a woman who was paid less than a man for doing the same work. The message is clear: in Illinois, equal pay is not a concept – it’s the law,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The state is aggressively pursuing hundreds of complaints about wage discrimination and is increasing its enforcement efforts. As a result, in January 2008, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) won its first Equal Pay Act case in court to recover thousands of dollars in owed wages for a female employee. 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. 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.
According to statistics released in 2007 by the U.S. Census Bureau, year-round, full-time working women in 2006 earned only 77 percent of the earnings of year-round, full-time working men, indicating little change or progress in pay equity since the federal equal pay act was passed 45 years ago. To address this wage disparity, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Equal Pay Act in 2003 to ensure that men and women are paid the same for doing the same work. Since the law took effect in 2004, the Department has responded to thousands of calls on the 1-866-EPA-IDOL toll-free hotline, received 314 complaints and has prompted settlements between employees and employers. Of the investigations completed by the Department to date, more than $91,000 in backwages and $8,000 in penalties will have been paid to employees.
“Despite the progress that women have made, the gender gap still remains an issue. We want the public to be aware of Equal Pay Day on April 22 and to notice that some of those differences are simply not fair, reasonable, nor tolerable any longer. We hope that creating awareness will encourage individuals, employers, local, state and federal governments to find better ways to provide a more equitable environment in the workplace, to ensure a more positive future for generations to come,” Nancy K. Daugherty, President, American Association of University Women (AAUW).
The AAUW advances the issue of equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. In Illinois, AAUW has nearly 3,000 members in 50 branches throughout the state.
Gov. Blagojevich and IDOL launched an aggressive Equal Pay Act awareness campaign in 2004. They established a toll-free hotline: 1-866-EPA-IDOL, distributed an estimated 40,000 “Equal Pay is the Law” posters to the largest employers in the state as a required posting, displayed 3,000 posters on buses and trains in the Chicago area, and broadcast and published public service announcements throughout the state. IDOL has since provided training seminars statewide to thousands of individuals representing public and private employers, civic and community organizations, attorneys, human resource professionals, payroll associations and employee organizations.
“I’m proud that our Department’s hard work has helped recover thousands of dollars in owed wages through its enforcement of the Equal Pay Act. We continue to conduct outreach statewide to remind employees and employers of the law to help eliminate unlawful wage differentials between men and women in the workplace,” said Catherine Shannon, Director, Illinois Department of Labor.
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 under the Act from harassment or retaliation. If an employer is found guilty of pay discrimination, they will be required to make up the wage difference to the employee and may be subject to pay legal costs and civil fines of up to $2,500 per violation. For more information or to file a complaint, call the Illinois Department of Labor’s Equal Pay hotline or download complaint forms from IDOL’s website: www.state.il.us/agency/idol
The Governor’s proclamation reads:
WHEREAS, more than 40 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, women and minorities continue to suffer the consequences of inequitable pay differentials; and
WHEREAS, according to statistics released in 2007 by the U.S. Census Bureau, year-round, full-time working women in 2006 earned only 77 percent of the earnings of year-round, full-time working men, indicating little change or progress in pay equity; and
WHEREAS, according to a January 2002 report released by the General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress), women managers in 7 of 10 industries surveyed actually lost ground in closing the wage gap between 1995 and 2000; and
WHEREAS, over a working lifetime, this wage disparity costs the average American woman and her family an estimated $700,000 to $2 million in lost wages, impacting Social Security benefits and pensions; and
WHEREAS, equal pay for equal work strengthens the security of families today and eases future retirement costs, while enhancing Illinois’ economy; and
WHEREAS, Tuesday, April 22 symbolizes the time in the new year in which wages paid to American women catch up to wages paid to men from the previous year; and
WHEREAS, in 2003, I signed into law the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers in this state with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women for doing the same or substantially similar work. This new law allowed an additional 333,000 Illinois workers to enjoy protections from gender-based discrimination in pay; and
WHEREAS, earlier this year, the State of Illinois won its first court victory in the Circuit Court of Cook County under the Illinois Equal Pay Act which resulted in the payment of thousands of dollars to a female employee owed backwages:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim April 22, 2008 as ILLINOIS EQUAL PAY DAY, in recognition of the value of women’s skills and contributions to the labor force, and I call on all employers to provide equal pay for equal work, both as a matter of fairness and as a matter of good business.