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 law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy and religious accommodations, allow employees to access their personnel files and allow wage discussions. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Illinois limits preemployment credit and criminal checks, and has passed a "ban the box" law. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Illinois, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, meal breaks, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Illinois has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay statements, pay frequency and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Illinois law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family military leave, child bereavement leave, blood donation leave, school visitation leave and emergency responder leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Illinois prohibits smoking in the workplace and using a handheld phone while driving, and allows weapons in parking lots. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Illinois employers must comply with applicable final pay, job reference and mass layoff notification requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Illinois

Illinois has many laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including pregnancy accommodation rights, a higher minimum wage and additional leave requirements, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as overtime pay, jury duty leave and occupational safety and health.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of protected characteristics including:

  • Sex;
  • Pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions;
  • Age (40 years of age or older);
  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • Arrest record;
  • Expunged and concealed convictions;
  • Marital status;
  • Housing status;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Citizenship status;
  • National origin;
  • Ancestry;
  • Military status;
  • Unfavorable military discharge;
  • Disability; and
  • Protective order status.

The IHRA provisions related to sexual harassment, disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination apply to private employers with one or more employees.

Equal Pay

Illinois provides equal pay protections under multiple laws.

The Illinois Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires an employer to pay the same wage rate to male and female employees who perform the same, or substantially the same, work in jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions. However, an employer may base pay differences on legitimate nondiscriminatory factors, including a seniority system, a merit system or a system measuring earnings based on quality or quantity of production.

The Minimum Wage Law provides similar protections as the Illinois EPA, but prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex and mental or physical handicap.

The Equal Wage Act applies to employers with six or more employees engaged in the manufacture of any article. The law prohibits payment of unequal wage for equal work (by time or piece of work) unless the variation in pay is due to seniority, experience, training, skill, difference in duties or any other reasonable classification except for sex.

The Wages of Women and Minors Act prohibits an employer from paying any woman or minor an oppressive and unreasonable wage, or a wage that is both less than the fair and reasonable value of the services rendered and less than sufficient to meet the cost of living necessary for health.

Discussion of Wages

The EPA prohibits an employer from terminating or discriminating against an employee for asking about, disclosing, comparing or otherwise discussing his or her own wages or another employee's wages.

Pregnancy Accommodation

The IHRA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • More frequent or longer bathroom, water or rest breaks;
  • Private space (not a bathroom) for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding;
  • Suitable seating;
  • Assistance with manual labor;
  • Temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or less-hazardous position;
  • Modified duties, equipment, policies or work schedule; and
  • Time off.

Religious Accommodation

An employer with 15 or more employees must reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief conflicts with a work requirement, under the IHRA. An employer may not impose, as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment, any term or condition that requires a person to violate or forgo a sincerely held religious practice, including the wearing of any attire, clothing or facial hair in accordance with religious requirements, unless the employer demonstrates undue hardship. An employer is not prohibited from enacting a dress code or grooming policy to maintain workplace safety or food sanitation.

Access to Personnel Files

The Personnel Record Review Act requires employers with five or more employees (excluding immediate family members) to allow current and former employees to inspect any personnel documents that are, have been or are intended to be used in determining that employee's qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, termination or other disciplinary action. An employee's request must be granted up to two times per calendar year and within seven working days of the request.

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, Disabilities (ADA): Illinois, EEO - Discrimination: Illinois, EEO - Harassment: Illinois, EEO - Retaliation: Illinois, HR Management: Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and HR Management: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Illinois requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Credit Checks

Illinois' Employee Credit Privacy Act (ECPA) generally bars employers from obtaining or using an applicant's credit history for purposes of making a hiring decision. However, the ECPA expressly excludes banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, insurance or surety companies, and debt collectors. In addition, the ECPA excludes employers that are seeking to fill a position where a satisfactory credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement for the job.

Criminal Checks

The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits an employer with 15 or more employees from inquiring into a job applicant's arrest history. In addition, an employer may not ask applicants about criminal history that has been expunged (arrests), sealed (convictions) or subject to executive clemency or pardon (felony convictions that are not eligible for sealing). However, an employer may question job applicants about criminal convictions (misdemeanor or felony) that have not been sealed or pardoned. Employers are expressly authorized to review a job applicant's conviction history, whether or not it has been sealed, for certain job categories (e.g., teachers, health care workers, child care workers, armed security guards).

Ban The Box

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from asking criminal history questions on job applications. Employers may lawfully make criminal history inquiries after a candidate has been selected for an interview or, if there is not an interview, after a conditional employment offer has been made.

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 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

The state minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. There are exemptions for tipped employees, minors, learners, trainees and individuals with disabilities.

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.

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

The Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires an employer with more than five employees (excluding immediate family members) to provide reasonable paid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child, unless providing such breaks would create an undue hardship. The break time may run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee.

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.

Minor under 16 may not work:

  • More than six consecutive days in one week;
  • More than three hours in one day (eight hours, when school is not in session);
  • More than 24 hours in one week (48 hours, when school is not in session); or
  • Between the hours of 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., from Labor Day through June 1 (between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., from June 1 through Labor Day).

Minors may work both Saturday and Sunday for not more than eight hours each day as long as the minor does not work:

  • More than six consecutive days in one week; and
  • More than 24 hours in one week.

Minors under 16 are entitled to a 30-minute meal period after no more than five hours of continuous work, and no period of fewer than 30 minutes is deemed to interrupt a "continuous" period of work.

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:

Health Care Continuation

Employees and their covered dependents are eligible for up to 12 months of health care continuation coverage if coverage ends due to the employee's reduction in hours or termination of employment.

In the event of the employee's death or retirement, or divorce, a spouse and dependent children are eligible for up to two years of continuation coverage. If the spouse is age 55 or older, coverage lasts until the spouse is eligible for Medicare.

Dependent children are eligible for up to two years of continuation coverage in the event of the employee's death (and coverage is not available under the spousal coverage provisions) or the dependent reaching the limiting age under the policy.

Payment of Wages

Illinois employers may pay employees in cash, by check, by direct deposit or by payroll debit cards.

Pay Statements

Illinois employers must provide each employee with an itemized statement of deductions made from wages for each pay period.

Pay Frequency

Nonexempt employees must be paid semimonthly. Exempt employees in the executive, administrative and professional categories may be paid once a month. Commissions may be paid once a month.

Payment should be made within 13 days after the pay period ends (if a semimonthly or biweekly pay period) or within seven days (if a weekly pay period). Exempt employees must be paid on or before 21 calendar days after the period in which the wages were earned.

Wage Notices

Illinois employers must notify employees at the time of hiring of:

  • The rate of pay; and
  • The time and place of payment.

When possible, this notification should be in writing and acknowledged by both parties.

Employers must also notify employees of any changes in the rate of pay or the time and place of payment before making the change.

Wage Deductions

Deductions may be made that:

  • Are required by law (e.g., taxes);
  • Benefit the employee (e.g., health insurance premiums, union dues);
  • Satisfy a valid wage assignment or wage deduction order (e.g., child support); or
  • Are made with the employee's express written consent.

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 benefits practices in Illinois can be found in 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.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Illinois has several laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees. These laws include:

  • Family military leave (covering employers with 15 or more employees);
  • Child bereavement leave (covering employers with 50 or more employees);
  • Blood donation leave (covering employers with 51 or more employees);
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Witness leave;
  • Voting leave;
  • Election official leave (covering employers with 25 or more employees);
  • School visitation leave (covering employers with 50 or more employees);
  • Military leave;
  • Civil Air Patrol leave (covering employers with 15 or more employees);
  • Emergency responder leave;
  • Domestic violence leave; and
  • Day of rest requirements.

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 time off and leave of absence practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, USERRA: Illinois, Jury Duty: Illinois, Other Leaves: Illinois, FMLA: Illinois, Hours Worked: 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, Other Leaves: Federal, FMLA: Federal and Hours Worked: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Illinois requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

Illinois prohibits smoking in places of employment and within 15 feet of any entrance to a place of employment.

Weapons in the Workplace

Employers in Illinois may ban guns in the workplace if proper signs have been posted.

However, an employee who is a concealed weapons license holder may carry a concealed firearm within a vehicle into the parking area or store a firearm concealed in a glove compartment, console or trunk (out of plain view) in a locked vehicle in the parking area. A license holder may also transport the firearm around the immediate area of the vehicle if the gun is unloaded and the purpose is to store it in or retrieve it from the trunk.

Safe Driving Practices

In Illinois, it is against the law to text or use a handheld phone while driving.

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 health and safety practices in Illinois can be found in the Illinois Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Illinois, Workplace Security: Illinois, HR and Workplace Safety: Illinois, Illinois Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal, Workplace Security: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Illinois requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

Whether an employee quits or is fired, all final compensation must be paid on the next regularly scheduled payday.

If an employee dies and has a small estate ($100,000 or less), the employer must pay wages owed, up to $20,000, to the surviving spouse. In addition, the employer must pay wages of up to $10,000, multiplied by the number of minor children and adult dependent children who resided with the surviving spouse at the time the employee died. If there is no surviving spouse, the same amounts are divided equally among the minor and adult dependent children.

If an employment contract or employer policy provides for paid vacations, all earned but unused vacation must be paid upon termination, unless otherwise provided in a collective bargaining agreement. Employment contracts and employer policies may not provide for forfeiture of earned vacation time upon termination.

Mass Layoff Notifications

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

References

Under the Illinois Employment Record Disclosure Act, employers are immune from liability for their good-faith disclosure of information they believe to be truthful about a current or former employee's job performance. The presumption of good faith may be lost if the information was knowingly false or violated a civil right.

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, Performance Appraisals: Illinois and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Illinois? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Involuntary Terminations: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.