A new law will make it much more costly for Illinois employers that fail to pay employees their earned wages, including final compensation such as accrued but unused vacation pay. The Illinois Wage Theft Enforcement Act, S.B. 3568 (the "Act"), signed into law July 30, 2010, increases both civil and criminal penalties for violating the state’s wage payment law, imposes new risks for employers who ignore or unsuccessfully challenge employees’ wage claims, and creates a new cause of action for employees who face retaliation for having complained about unpaid wages. The Act will take effect January 1, 2011.
Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act
The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the "Wage Payment Act") requires employers to pay employees their earned wages no later than a specified period following the date on which the wages are earned, and to pay employees who resign or are terminated all wages they earned through their last day of employment, no later than the first regular payroll date thereafter. The law applies to every employee in Illinois, exempt or non-exempt, regardless of the employer’s size or location. "Earned wages" includes not only an employee’s salary or hourly pay, but also any earned bonuses or vacation pay. With some limited exceptions such as tax withholdings and authorized deductions for benefits, the Wage Payment Act also prohibits employers from deducting anything from an employee’s wages, unless the employee signs an authorization at the time of the deduction. The law also allows employees to recover damages from any corporate officer or agent of an employer who knowingly permits the employer to violate the Wage Payment Act.