CHICAGO –Governor Pat Quinn pledged to continue the fight against gender based wage discrimination in the workplace and designated today as Equal Pay Day in Illinois. Equal Pay Day, originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity, is observed nationwide on a Tuesday in April to emphasize how far into the current year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.
“Equal pay for equal work strengthens the security of families today and eases future retirement costs, while enhancing Illinois’ economy,” the Governor’s proclamation states.
“I am proud of our successes under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. Seeing the effort and progress being made at both the state and federal levels gives me great hope for the future. The Department will continue its outreach and enforcement activities aimed at eliminating the wage gap, making sure employees and employers are aware of and abide by the law,” said Catherine Shannon, Director of the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL).
This year has been a landmark year for equal pay reform. On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law. The law will fight pay inequity and fosters equal pay by easing restrictions on the time period for filing equal pay lawsuits in federal court. In Illinois, legislation (HB 3634) that would extend filing deadlines with IDOL and the statute of limitations for pursuing legal action in state court has passed the House and awaits approval by the Senate.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act was enacted in 2003 to help eliminate the wage differential between men and women. The Act is enforced by the IDOL, which has been successful in recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages for women who were paid less than their male co-workers for doing the same work, in violation of the law.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act expanded the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by protecting thousands more workers from pay discrimination, providing better enforcement mechanisms and increasing public awareness. The Act also enhances the Department’s 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.
The Department provides in-depth trainings to individuals representing public and private employers, civic and community organizations, attorneys, human resource professionals, payroll associations and employee organizations. These training seminars remind employees and employers of the law to help eliminate the wage differential between men and women and create pay equity in the workplace.
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, or a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production or if they use factors other than gender to determine the pay differential. 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 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 to download on the Department’s website: www.state.il.us/agency/idol.
In addition to the Governor’s proclamation, the Illinois House and Senate have also filed joint resolutions (HJR 47, SJR 61) recognizing today as Pay Equity Day. 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 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007, Illinois women earned 78 percent for every dollar earned by Illinois men based on median weekly earnings of full-time and salary workers, indicating little change or progress in pay equity; and
WHEREAS, over a 40-year period, the gender wage gap costs a full-time female worker $434,000 in lost wages, impacting Social Security benefits and pensions; and
WHEREAS, on January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which fights pay discrimination and fosters equal pay; and
WHEREAS, equal pay for equal work strengthens the security of families today and eases future retirement costs, while enhancing Illinois’ economy; and
WHEREAS, in 2003, the Illinois Equal Pay Act became law, 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, Tuesday, April 28 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:
THEREFORE, I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim April 28, 2009 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.