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Illinois Labor and Employment Law
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Illinois labor law lawsuits allege violations of Illinois state labor laws including overtime pay and minimum wage violations. The rights of employees in Illinois are protected by a number of laws including the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, the Illinois Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Possible violations of Illinois employment labor law include wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination.
Illinois Labor LawIllinois Prevailing Wage Act
The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works projects at least the general prevailing rate of wages for work that is similar in nature and carried out in the same locale. As of January 1, 2010, bills designed to clarify and enhance compliance with the Prevailing Wage Act will go into effect. These clarify what work is covered and how contracts are to receive notification that the projects they work on are subject to prevailing wage requirements.
Illinois Equal Pay Act
The Illinois Equal Pay Act prohibits employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women doing either the same work or work that is substantially the same, requires equal skill effort and responsibility and is completed under similar working conditions.
On August 14, 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill allowing complainants more time to file a complaint in court regarding gender-based wage discrimination. The extended time to file a complaint in court means that employees will maintain their right to sue in cases where employers delay paying back [added space here]wages or do not cooperate with investigations and enforcement actions.
Employees now have within one year of the date of the underpayment to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor and have within five years of the date of underpayment to file a complaint in state court.
Illinois Minimum Wage
Since July 1, 2010, the Illinois minimum wage has been $8.25 an hour. In the city of Chicago, minimum wage is $10.00 an hour.
Illinois has a Mini-COBRA, designed to supplement the federal COBRA. Mini-COBRA is modeled after federal COBRA law, but allows employees of small businesses (two to 19 employees) who receive health insurance from their employer the right to purchase continuation health insurance after their employment ends. Eligible employees and dependents can purchase health insurance for nine months after the end of their employment.
Prior to the Mini-COBRA, only employees working for companies that employed more than 20 people were eligible for COBRA benefits. In Illinois, mini-COBRA allows employees to qualify for up to nine months' additional coverage.
At Will Employment
Illinois is an "employment at will" state. As such, at-will employees can be terminated for any reason. The only exception is for employees who are covered by a contract or union agreement governing the terms of employment. Employees who are covered by an employment contract can usually only be terminated for the reasons set out in the contract. At-will employment also protects the employee's right to resign.
Unlawful terminations violate legal protections, including discrimination or harassment, whistleblower protections, absence to serve on a jury, retaliation for asserting legal rights or violations of employment or union contracts. In such cases a fired employee could potentially file a wrongful termination claim.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law regarding employee wages and hours worked, including overtime hours and wages. Under the FLSA, some workers can be exempted from overtime pay. However, those workers must fit the criteria the FLSA sets out for exemption. Illinois' laws also apply to employment subject to the FLSA. In cases where both the FLSA and state law apply, the law setting the higher standards must be observed.
More information on how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to overtime can be found here.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act that requires that covered employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees for the following reasons: the birth and care of the employee's newborn child; care for a child after adoption or foster care placement; leave due to a serious health condition that affects the employee's own ability to work; or the need for the employee to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.
Illinois employees are eligible for FMLA coverage if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months (not necessarily consecutive months) and if a minimum of 50 employees are employed by the same employer within 75 miles.
Covered employers are those who employ more than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite and have at least 50 employees who work 20 or more work-weeks in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year. Public agencies are covered by the FMLA regardless of the number of employees.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law enacted to ensure that employees work in an environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is part of the United States Code, Title 29, Chapter 15.
Federal laws also protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination, including race, age, disability and pregnancy discrimination.
Employees who feel their rights have been violated may have the opportunity to bring their complaint before the courts.
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