CHICAGO–April 20, 2010. As today marks Equal Pay Day in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) highlighted its efforts to end gender-based wage discrimination in Illinois workplaces. Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed Equal Pay Day in Illinois to underscore the need for pay parity between men and women for doing the same work and to create greater awareness of the law. Equal Pay Day, originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity, is observed nationwide 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.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois women in 2008 earned 78 percent of every dollar earned by Illinois men based on the median weekly earnings of full-time workers. 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.
“Our effort has been to ensure that men and women, who do the same work, are paid the same, and I’m proud of the number of individuals and families we’ve helped through enforcement of the Illinois Equal Pay Act,” said Catherine Shannon, Director, IDOL. “Equal Pay Day raises public awareness of the reality that women still do not receive equal pay for equal work. The Department will continue to work hard to ensure that employees and employers are aware of the law’s requirements.”
Since the law went into effect in 2004, the Department has received 440 complaints and of the investigations completed to date, recovered nearly $275,000 in back wages for female workers who were paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same or similar work for the same employer.
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 State’s Equal Pay 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.
President Barack Obama in 2009 signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to fight pay inequity and foster equal pay by easing restrictions on the time period for filing equal pay lawsuits in federal court. Also in 2009, Gov. Quinn signed legislation (P.A. 96-0467) amending the Illinois Equal Pay Act to extend the statute of limitations for pursuing legal action in state court as well as the deadline for filing a complaint with IDOL.
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
The Governor’s proclamation reads:
WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, year-round, full-time working women in 2008 earned only 77 percent of the earnings of year-round, full-time working men, indicating little change or progress in pay equity; and
WHEREAS, over a working lifetime, this wage disparity costs the average American woman and her family $700,000 to $2 million in lost wages, impacting Social Security benefits and pensions; and
WHEREAS, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois women in 2008 earned 78 percent of every dollar earned by Illinois men based on median weekly earnings of full-time workers; 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, prohibiting employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women for doing the same or substantially similar work; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Department of Labor is a state agency dedicated to advancing pay equity in the workplace and protecting workers from gender-based wage discrimination through its enforcement of the Illinois Equal Pay Act; and
WHEREAS, Tuesday, April 20 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 20, 2010 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.