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Department of Labor Victory Under the Illinois Equal Pay Act

A Chicago liquor store was ordered to pay more than $12,000 in back wages and penalties to a former female clerk who was paid less than a similarly situated male clerk. The store will pay $4,061 in back wages and $8,122 in penalties to the claimant. This is the first time a state court has ordered payments of back pay and penalties under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. Gov. Rod Blagojevich applauded the decision, having signed the statute into law in 2003. “This significant step shows how hard our state is working to make pay equity a reality in the workplace.” The complaint arose from a complaint of disparate pay. After refusing an order from the Department of Labor to pay, the liquor store refused. The Office of the Illinois attorney general then filed suit on behalf of the DOL and the claimant. The DOL has announced that claimants have been paid over $82,000 in back wages and penalties since the law’s inception. The DOL plans to continue to conduct outreach on the law to ensure that employees know their rights to equal pay and that employers are aware of their obligations under the law. Even though the total amount of money recovered so far has been low, this does not mean it is an indication of what will happen in the years to come. Moreover, the data clearly shows that the number of charges filed is steadily increasing and the DOL will continue to bring lawsuits on behalf of employees. Employers should remain vigilant in monitoring their own practices and address employee concerns before they erupt into litigation. You should take this time to consider having outside counsel conduct an internal audit, which should include an analysis of your company’s pay practices. Preventative measures such as the audit are much more cost effective than waiting to defend a lawsuit and paying for all the costs involved. Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on all labor and employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.