CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today joined local elected officials to recognize Equal Pay Day and raise awareness of the disparity that remains between workplace earnings among women and men. This date, proclaimed by the Governor and designated by the Illinois General Assembly, marks how far into the current year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. Today’s observance is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to drive economic growth and ensure that all Illinois workers are treated fairly.
“If someone does the same work, they should earn the same pay,” Governor Quinn said. “Yet here we are in 2014 – 51 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act – and women on average still don’t earn as much as their male counterparts in the workplace. We won’t be satisfied until all workers are equally compensated for the same work, regardless of their gender. When women succeed, our economy grows.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois women still earn just 78 cents of every dollar earned by Illinois men based on the median weekly earnings of full-time workers. The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) enforces the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which was enacted to help close the wage gap between men and women. IDOL has successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages for women who were paid less than their male co-workers for doing the same work, which is prohibited under the Act.
“Our Department has helped Illinois workers recover wages they lost as a result of gender-based pay discrimination,” IDOL Director Joseph Costigan said. “Through rigorous enforcement, we will continue to ensure fair pay in the workplace.”
Since the law went into effect in 2004, the Department has received 709 complaints and of the investigations completed to date, has recovered more than $690,000 in back wages for workers who did not receive equal pay for equal work.
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. The law protects both men and women 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.
Today’s Equal Pay Day observance is the latest in Governor Quinn’s drive to protect and empower women in Illinois. The Governor’s actions to support women and equal rights include:
- Fought for and signed a law amending the Equal Pay Act to give victims of underpayment more time to address their claims.
- Launched the innovative Birth to Five Initiative in his 2014 State of the State address to expand access to prenatal care; early care and learning opportunities for every child; and strong parent support.
- Leading the charge to increase the state’s minimum wage to at least $10 per hour – six in ten minimum wage workers in Illinois are female.
- In his 2014 State of the State address, proposed a minimum of two days of earned sick leave per year for 2.5 million Illinois workers, 78 percent of whom are women, who have no sick leave.
- Launched the first ever Women Owned Business Symposium.
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: Labor.Illinois.gov.