Expansions of the Illinois Equal Pay Act
Joining the ranks of several other states and local jurisdictions, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a new law on July 31, 2019, which is set to take effect on September 29, 2019. The new law prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history as part of the hiring process. This new law also includes other pay equity provisions that require employers to immediately adjust their hiring practices.
The Salary History Ban
The cornerstone of the Illinois Equal Pay Act & Wage History, HB834, is the salary history ban. Once effective, Illinois employers are prohibited from:
- Requesting or requiring wage or salary history from an applicant as a condition of being interviewed, considered for a job, or hired
- Requesting or inquiring that an applicant disclose their wage or salary history as a condition of employment
- Screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages or salary histories by requiring that the history satisfy a minimum or maximum level
- Seeking a job applicant’s wage or salary history from any current or former employer. This does not apply if their salary history is available as a matter of public record or if the applicant is a current employee seeking another position within the same organization
Once the law is in effect, it will also be unlawful to require an employee to sign a contract or waiver that would prohibit them from disclosing or discussing information about their wages or salary to anyone else.
The law does contain an exception that permits the employer to prohibit anyone (i.e. members from HR, payroll, or finance departments as well as management), whose job responsibilities give them access to other employees’ wages or salary information, from disclosing such information. This information may only be released with prior written consent from the employee.
The new law also implements a few minor changes to Illinois’ existing Equal Pay Act. The current law states that in pay equity claims filed on the basis of gender or race (limited to claims filed by African Americans), employers must ensure they are paying equal wages to those performing the same or substantially similar work where the performance requires “equal” skill, effort, and responsibility. The new law replaces the word “equal” with “substantially similar,” making it easier for workers to succeed in equal pay claims.
Further, the new law significantly expands the kinds of damages available to workers under the Act. Currently, workers are permitted to recover the amount of underpayment and reasonable attorney fees. The new law adds compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief to the menu of options available to those succeeding in equal pay claims against employers.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers with operations in Illinois should take steps now to ensure compliance with the new law, which will go into effect in just a few short weeks.
- Amend employment applications to eliminate questions about pay history
- Update hiring procedures including the review of interview questions
- Update reference and background check processes to not request salary history
- Educate and train all human resource personnel, management staff, and any other employees involved in the interviewing and hiring process
For additional information or help with your policies, procedures, and training needs, contact our compliance expert, Jenny Andrews, or our Human Capital Management consultants at www.sikich.com/human-resources or contact Sikich.