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Changes to Illinois Equal Pay Act go into Effect for 2016

The Illinois Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex by paying an employee less than an employee of the opposite sex for substantially similar work on jobs which require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. The Act contains exceptions that allow for unequal pay when wages are based upon either: (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (4) any factor other than sex or a factor which would otherwise violate the Illinois Human Rights Act.
 
The Illinois Department of Labor investigates and enforces reported violations of the Act.  Aggrieved employees may also bring a civil claim for violations of the Act, in which they can recover the amount of the underpayment, together with interest and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
 
Starting on January 1, 2016, changes to the Equal Pay Act will come into effect that will increase employers’ obligations and potential liability under the Act. First among these changes is that the Act will apply to all employers, regardless of size. Previously, the Act only applied to employers with 4 or more employees.
 
Second, the penalties for a violation of the Equal Pay Act have changed. Previously, an employer could be fined up to $2,500 for discrimination based upon sex, or up to $5,000 for either retaliating against an individual who brings a claim under the Act or for interfering with, restraining, or denying an individual’s attempt to exercise any right provided under the Act.
 
Under the changes to the Act, the fine for retaliation or interference with an employee’s right to exercise rights under the Act has not changed. However, the fines for discriminating against an employee on the basis of sex have changed, and now vary depending on the number of employees, as set forth below: 

  Employer with less than 4 employees Employer with 4 or more employees
1st Violation Fine up to $500 Fine up to $2,500
2nd Violation Fine up to $2,500 Fine up to $3,000
3rd Violation or More Fine up to $5,000 Fine up to $5,000

If you have any further questions about your obligations under the Illinois Equal Pay Act, please contact the Employment or Business attorneys at Bozeman, Neighbour, Patton & Noe.