Labor and Employment Law Overview: Illinois

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Illinois employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of a variety of factors. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Illinois law imposes restrictions on an employer's use of ability tests, arrest records and certain criminal history. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Illinois, there are many requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, break periods and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • State law establishes requirements related to payment of wages, paydays, pay rate notifications, wage deductions and health care continuation. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Leave requirements in Illinois include family military leave, blood donation leave, jury duty leave and school visitation leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Certain employers must provide advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Illinois

Illinois is generally considered an employee-friendly state.

Select Illinois employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Illinois requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Protected Classes Under the Illinois Human Rights Act

The Illinois Department of Human Rights is responsible for administering the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). The IHRA offers protection exceeding that provided under federal law.

For instance, it recognizes a greater number of protected classes. The IHRA prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local employers and any entities with a public contract from discriminating on the basis of the following:

  • Sex;
  • Age (40 years of age or older);
  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • Arrest record;
  • Marital status;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Citizenship status;
  • National origin;
  • Ancestry;
  • Unfavorable military discharge;
  • Retaliation;
  • Military status;
  • Sexual harassment;
  • Physical or mental handicap; and
  • Orders of protection.

The IHRA provisions prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of an individual's physical or mental handicap apply to private employers with one or more employees (as opposed to 15 or more), state and local employers and entities with public contracts.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Employers may not discriminate against employees based upon pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, and must treat those employees in the same manner as they treat other employees with similar limitations on their ability to work.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unlawful under the IHRA. However, an employer will be liable only for harassment by individuals not under its employ, or by its nonsupervisory employees, if the employer learns of the misconduct and fails to take appropriate remedial measures.

English-Only Policies

An employer may not prohibit employees from speaking a specific language in the workplace, unless that prohibition is related to the employee's job duties.

Equal Pay

Illinois' Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from discriminating between male and female employees in terms of compensation. Therefore, male and female employees who perform the same, or substantially the same, work should be paid equivalent wages.

However, an employer may base pay differences on legitimate nondiscriminatory factors (e.g., merit, seniority system, etc.).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Illinois, EEO - Harassment: Illinois, EEO - Retaliation: Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Illinois requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Arrest Records and Erased or Sealed Criminal History

A private employer may not base employment decisions on arrest records or erased criminal history information (e.g., records that have been expunged or sealed). An employer may consider that information if required to do so by law. For instance, law enforcement agencies, banks and securities firms may be legally obligated to consider arrest history for certain positions. In that case, the agency, firm or bank would not violate Illinois law by basing an employment decision on an employee's or applicant's prior arrest records.

Ability Tests

Using professionally developed ability tests as a condition for employment or continued employment is permissible as long as the test does not have a discriminatory effect or intent and is not a pretext for unlawful discrimination.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Illinois can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Illinois and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Illinois requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Illinois' Minimum Wage Law applies to employers with four or more employees. The state minimum wage is $8.25 per hour for individuals age 18 years and older. There are exemptions, and exceptions exist for tipped employees and employees under 18 years old.

Overtime

Nonexempt employees are entitled to pay at one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Rest Breaks

State law does not require rest break periods for employees.

Meal Breaks

An employee who is to work seven and one-half continuous hours or more must be provided a 20-minute meal period. The meal period should be provided within five hours of the employee beginning work.

Breastfeeding Breaks

An employer with more than five employees (excluding immediate family members) must provide nursing mothers reasonable unpaid break time each day to express breast milk for their infant children, unless providing such breaks would unduly disrupt operations. A covered employer also must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the work area, where an employee can express milk in privacy.

One Day Rest in Seven Act

The One Day Rest in Seven Act provides certain employees with at least 24 hours of rest in every calendar week. There are exemptions (i.e., part-time employees, security guards, etc.).

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Illinois restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors under 16 years of age are prohibited from working in a variety of occupations. Illinois state law allows minors to work more hours per week than the federal law's 18-hour limit. Illinois requires employers hiring minors under 16 years of age to obtain an employment certificate and make it available for inspection by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Illinois, Overtime: Illinois, Hours Worked: Illinois, Child Labor: Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Illinois requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Payment of Wages

Employees cannot be forced to accept a form of payment that requires use of a personal bank account.

Employees may, nonetheless, volunteer to be paid by direct deposit in an account at a bank or financial institution of their choice.

Paydays

Absent an exemption (e.g., executive, administrative and professional employees - as defined under the Fair Labor Standards Act), employees' wages should be paid at least semi-monthly.

Payment should be made within 13 days after the pay period ends. Commissions, however, need only be paid on a monthly basis.

Pay Rate Notifications

An employer must notify an employee of a reduction in the employee's pay rate prior to the employee actually performing the work. If the employee must be paid minimum wage, the reduction may not cause the employee to be paid less than the applicable minimum wage rate.

Also, prior to reducing employees' wages, HR should confirm the reduction is permissible under the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement or employment contract.

Wage Deductions

Only certain wage deductions are allowed under Illinois law. Deductions may be made when:

  • Required by law (e.g., taxes);
  • The deduction is to the benefit of the employee (e.g., health insurance premiums, union dues etc.);
  • A valid wage assignment or wage deduction order is in effect;
  • The deduction is made with the employee's express written consent and is given freely at the time the deduction is made.

Deductions for work-related items such a uniforms and tools are not permissible.

Each pay period, employees must receive an itemized list of deductions, if any.

Health Care Continuation

Illinois' state continuation law, or its mini-COBRA law, requires group health plans issued to employers to allow eligible separated employees to continue health care coverage for up to 12 months.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefit practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Payment of Wages: Illinois, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Illinois, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Illinois requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Illinois Family Military Leave Act

Employers with at least 15 employees, but not more than 50, must provide up to 15 days of unpaid family military leave during the time state or federal deployment orders are in effect.

Employers with 51 or more employees must provide up to 30 days of unpaid family military leave during the time state or federal deployment orders are in effect.

Before taking family military leave, employees should provide the employer with 14 days' notice and are required to exhaust other paid time off (i.e., sick days, vacation days, etc.).

Employee Blood Donation Leave Act

Private employers with 51 or more employees must comply with the Employee Blood Donation Leave Act, which allows employees to take one hour of paid leave every 56 days for the purpose of donating blood.

Jury Duty Leave

An employer may not terminate, or threaten to terminate, employees for taking time off for jury duty service and may not require employees who work the night shift to report to work after jury service. An employer is not required to pay employees for this time off and is entitled to receive notice of leave within 10 days of the employee receiving the summons for jury duty.

Voting Leave

Employees are entitled to take two hours of paid leave to vote in a general or special election, unless an employee has two hours before his or her shift starts or ends to vote. Employees who wish to take voting leave must apply prior to election day.

School Visitation Leave

Certain employers must comply with the School Visitation Rights Act. Under this law, during any school year, eligible employees may take up to eight hours of unpaid leave to attend school conferences or events that could not be scheduled during nonworking hours.

No more than four hours of leave should be taken in any workday. First, however, employees must exhaust all other paid time off (sick days, vacation days, etc.).

Absent an emergency, employees should provide the employer with seven days' written notice before taking school visitation leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, USERRA: Illinois, Jury Duty: Illinois, Other Leaves: Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in USERRA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Illinois requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Paycheck

If an employee quits or is fired, all final compensation should be paid upon separation, if possible. If payment upon separation is not practicable, the separated employee must be paid on the employee's next regularly scheduled payday.

The final payment should include all wages, including any accrued and unused vacation or paid time off days.

Illinois WARN Act

The Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers with 75 or more full-time employees to give workers and state and local government officials 60 days' advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff.

This law does not apply to federal, state or local governments.

References

Illinois, like several other states, has a reference immunity statute. Under the statute, an employer that provides truthful reference information is presumed to have done so in good faith and, as such, is immune from civil liability. That presumption is, however, rebuttable. If an employer provides reference information it knows to be false or misleading or provides information in violation of an employee's civil rights, the presumption of good faith and immunity will not apply.

Vacation Forfeiture Policies

Workplace policies stating that separated employees forfeit vacation days or paid time off are not permissible.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Illinois can be found in Payment of Wages: Illinois, Involuntary Terminations: Illinois and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Process of Termination: Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.