The Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate recently voted to override outgoing Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of proposed changes to the Illinois Equal Pay Act. This means that Employers in the State of Illinois, effective January 1, 2019, will be required to comply with a new set of Pay Equity obligations.
The original Illinois Equal Pay Act, which was initially put into place in 2003, prohibited Illinois Employers from paying men and women different rates of pay for similar work. Beginning January 1, 2019, the Illinois Equal Pay Act will be amended and expanded to provide these protections directly to African-American Workers and will prohibit Employers from paying African-American Employees less than other Employees who are not African-American. The same protections afforded to women as of 2003 will be afforded to African-American Workers as of January 1, 2019 and will require that Employers give equal pay to African-American Employees (i.e. the same pay as received by other Employees who are not African American and who are performing the same or substantially similar work on jobs that require equal skill, effort, responsibility, and are performed under "similar working conditions").
It must be understood that this system of equal pay can be modified to provide wage differentials between men and/or women, and/or African-American Employees if the wage differentials are predicated on a defined Seniority System; a system that measures and applies earnings based on the quantity or quality of performance; or on a Merit Pay System. It must be understood that the terminology "similar working conditions" and "substantially similar work" are very broad and undefined in the Legislation and obviously will be subject to further interpretations or Court Rulings. It is crucial that Illinois Employers have job descriptions that clearly define each position's duties and essential job functions because these detailed descriptions may be the best defense to Equal Pay Claims.
There is also a very strong probability that prior Legislation that was vetoed by Governor Rauner in 2017 and 2018 with regard to prohibitions on Employers from screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history will also be considered again by the Legislature. These job screening prohibitions were not positively viewed by many Employers, but may still become Law at a later point. This would be bizarre because once employed, the Illinois Employer could not pay an Employee less than what was being paid to another Employee performing the "same work under similar conditions" unless an exception applied (i.e. Seniority; Merit System).
It is absolutely crucial that Illinois Employers stay attuned to changes in the Illinois Equal Pay Act that have become Law as of January 1, 2019 and may become Law in the future.
Questions? Contact Attorney Walter Liszka in our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by e-mail at [email protected]