labor law guide
The Illinois employment laws every business owner should know
Wages and breaks
Illinois minimum wage laws require employers to pay at least $10 an hour, according to Illinois Department of Labor. The rate will increase over the next few years as follows:
- January 1, 2021: $11.00
- January 1, 2022: $12.00
- January 1, 2023: $13.00
- January 1, 2024: $14.00
- January 1, 2025: $15.00
The minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.95.
If an employer pays their employees the tipped minimum wage, they must also ensure the employee is making the standard minimum wage after tips are earned.
Employment practices in Illinois stipulate that employees must be paid at a rate of 1 ½ times their regular rate for any work performed past 40 hours in a workweek, unless the employee is exempt.
The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year. Workers making at least this salary level may be eligible for overtime based on their job duties.
Final paychecks in Illinois
Employees who are fired, discharged, terminated or laid off must be paid their final paycheck by the next payday, according to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. The employee can request to have their final wages mailed to them.
Employees who resign or who are suspended must be paid their final paycheck by the next payday as well, and can also request that the check be mailed.
Illinois child labor laws
Minors under the age of 16 are required to obtain a work permit and present it to their employer to verify their ability to work before they’re hired.
They are permitted to work a maximum of 8 hours a day, 48 hours a week, and 6 days per week when school is not in session.
When school is in session, they are only permitted to work a maximum of 3 hours a day and up to 24 hours a week.
They are allowed to work a maximum of 8 hours a day on both Saturday and Sunday as long as the minor doesn’t work more than 6 consecutive days a week.
During the school year, they are prohibited from working between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., except if they are employed in recreational or educational activities by a park district or municipal parks and recreation department, in which case they may work up to 3 hours per school day twice a week until 9 p.m.
They may work until 9 p.m. when school is not in session.
Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave.
Employers are not required to provide paid leave, but may be required to provide unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Employers in Illinois that have more than 50 employees must allow their employees to take up to one hour of leave to donate blood every 56 days.
To be eligible for the leave, employees must have worked for the employer for at least six months.
Employers in Illinois with at least 50 employees must provide leave to eligible employees who have lost a child. Employees who are eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and have not exhausted their FMLA leave are entitled to use a maximum of 2 weeks (10 work days) of unpaid bereavement leave to attend the funeral of a child, make arrangements necessitated by the death of the child, or grieve the death of the child.
Employers that have at least 50 employees must allow their employees to take up to eight hours of leave to attend their children’s school conferences or classroom activities if they can’t be scheduled after work hours. The employer may limit the leave on any given day to four hours.
Employers are only required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave if they have an established policy to do so.
Employers must pay an employee for all accrued vacation time upon separation from employment.
Employers can implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” vacation policy that requires employees to use their vacation time by a certain date, but must provide an adequate amount of time for the employee to use it.
Private employers are not required to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave unless they establish a policy to do so.
Employers must allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury and may not require the employee to work a night shift if the employee is participating in jury duty during the day.
Employers may not terminate an employee for responding to a jury summons.
Employees must be given two hours off work to vote if their shift starts less than two hours after the polls open ends less than two hours before the polls close provided they have given notice.
Employers must allow their employees, including those that have been offered a job but have not started to work, to take leave to serve or train in the US Armed Forces, the state militia, or the National Guard.
After their service, the employee is entitled to return to their job with the same pay increases and other employment benefits they would have earned if they had not taken the leave. This right to reemployment applies even if the employee could not enlist in the military because they were unqualified.
If the employee sustains a disability because of their service and can no longer perform their job duties, the employer must offer them another position that they are qualified for. The pay and benefits of the position offered must be similar to those of the employee’s previous position.
For one year after being reemployed, the employer may not discharge the employee without cause.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is applicable to all employers in the United States.
Employers that have at least 15 employees must allow an employee to take unpaid leave while their spouse, parent, child, or grandchild is called to military service lasting longer than 30 days.
For employers that have 15 to 50 employees, the leave is up to 15 days. For employers that have more than 50 employees, the leave is up to 30 days.
Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for exercising their rights to family military leave or for opposing an unlawful practice regarding family military leave.
Employers may not discharge an employee who is a volunteer emergency worker because they take leave to respond to an emergency. The employer may decide whether the leave is paid or unpaid.
In addition, employers may not discipline an employee who is a volunteer emergency worker for answering a call or text message during work hours that requests their volunteer emergency services unless the employer already has written policies in place that prohibit the use of cell phones.
Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for appearing as a witness in a criminal proceeding. Employers are not required to pay an employee for witness leave.
Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee who is the victim of domestic or sexual violence (or their family or household member) for attending, participating in, or preparing for a criminal or civil proceeding relating to such violence.
Employers must provide leave to an employee who is a victim or whose family member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence. An employee may use the leave to address issues related to the violence, such as seeking medical treatment, obtaining counseling or victim services, relocating, or seeking legal assistance.
Employers that have 1–14 employees must provide up to four workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.
Employers that have 15–49 employees must provide up to eight workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.
Employers that have 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period. If an employee is eligible for FMLA leave, then the employer may require that the employee use their FMLA leave concurrently with the domestic violence leave.
Hiring and firing
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.
Additionally, Illinois prohibits discrimination based marital status, unfavorable military discharge, arrest record, housing status, credit report or credit information, use of lawful products off the employer’s premises, and/or domestic violence and/or order of protection status.
Employers may not prohibit employees from using their native language in the workplace for non-work communications (e.g., chatting with a co-worker on lunch). This does not apply to profanity, slang, or jargon.
It is a violation for an employer to impose, as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment, any term or condition that requires a person to violate or forgo a sincerely held practice of their religion, including the wearing of any attire, clothing, or particular style of facial hair.
Illinois is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action.
Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:
For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves.
For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.
For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination.
Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you:
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.
You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.
If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years.
Additional laws that may apply to you.
Illinois requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees: Healthcare personnel, park district personnel, armed security guards, private detectives, private security contractors, private alarm contractors, locksmiths, firefighters, if requested by the chief or board of trustees, peace officers, childcare personnel, school bus drivers, public school personnel and state-recognized private school personnel, state mental health facility personnel, those who provide state-approved early intervention services to children, carnival personnel, and secure residential youth care facility personnel
Employers may not obtain or use credit checks on applicants or employees unless either the employer or the applicant or employee falls under an exception, listed below.
The following employers may obtain credit checks on applicants or employees: financial institutions, insurance businesses, law enforcement, and debt collectors.
Employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from inquiring about, considering, or requiring disclosure of criminal records or histories of applicants prior to determining that they are qualified for the position and offering an interview. If interviews will not be conducted, the inquiry may only be made after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
Employers must accommodate off-duty medical use of marijuana, unless doing so would violate federal law or cause the employer to lose federal money or a federal license. Recreational use is legal, but employers may still enforce their drug policies prohibiting cannabis, with a couple caveats.
First, to test for reasonable suspicion an employer must have a good faith belief that the employee manifests specific, articulable symptoms while working that affect their job performance, including symptoms of the employee’s speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, irrational or unusual behavior, or negligence or carelessness in operating equipment of machinery.
Second, if an employer wants to discipline the employee for on-duty impairment, they must provide the employee a reasonable opportunity to contest the employer’s conclusion. Technically the recreational use law includes a non-discrimination provision for employment, but a last-minute amendment clarified that employers could still have a policy against all use (a no-tolerance testing policy, essentially) if the policy was reasonable and communicated to employees and applicants.
COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” Illinois’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to 12 months. We recommend that employers inform an employee of their COBRA rights as soon as a triggering event occurs, but no later than 10 days after the occurrence. Employees must be notified by mail or in person.
Employers in Illinois may not do any of the following:Have a policy that prevents an employee from reporting what they reasonably believe to be a violation of state or federal law to a governmental or law enforcement agency, retaliate against an employee for reporting what they reasonably believe to be a violation of state or federal law to a governmental or law enforcement agency, retaliate against an employee for participate in a proceeding, including before a legislative committee, regarding an alleged violation of state or federal law, retaliate against an employee who refuses to participate in any violation of state or federal law, or retaliate against an employee who assists in proceedings or otherwise opposes fraudulent claims made to the State or Illinois or to the Illinois National Guard.
In addition, employers that are nursing facilities may not retaliate against an employee because they report or threaten to report to their supervisor or to a public body what they reasonably believe to be a violation of a law.
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, such as more frequent bathroom breaks, assistance with manual labor, and/or modifications to work duties or schedule upon request. Employers must post notice about these requirements in a conspicuous place and include the same information in employee handbooks.
Employers may not discipline an employee solely for being a qualified medical marijuana patient unless required by federal law in order to maintain funding. This prohibition does not need to affect an employer’s drug use policies.
Each employee in Illinois must complete, at least annually, a sexual harassment prevention training program. New employees must complete their initial training within 30 days of hire. The training must include explanations of sexual harassment under Illinois law, a summary of applicable laws on sexual harassment and remedies available, and a summary of employers’ obligations to prevent, investigate, and remediate incidents of workplace sexual harassment.
The Illinois Biometric Privacy Act requires employer to follow certain steps when collecting biometric identifiers for any purpose, which you can find here.
It is unlawful for Illinois employers to ask, require, or coerce applicants or employees to disclose or to provide passwords or other means of authentication that provides access to a personal social media account or demand access to an employee or applicant’s online personal account.
In addition, it is illegal for an employer to compel an employee or applicant for employment to access their personal online account in the employer’s presence or compel an employee or applicant for employment to add the employer or an employment agency to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts associated with a social media website.
If employers need to conduct an investigation, they may require an employee to share specific content that has been reported to the employer and that is necessary for the employer to make a factual determination about the matter under investigation.
If a employer inadvertently receives the username, password, or any other information that would enable the employer to gain access to the employee’s or potential employee’s personal online account, the employer is not liable for having that information, unless the employer uses that information or provides it to a third party for use.
Employers are not prohibited from accessing social media pages that are visible to the public.
Illinois is an “all parties” consent state, meaning every person on a phone call must be aware that they are being monitored or recorded and have consented by placing or continuing the phone call. This means employers may monitor or record phone calls between their own employees only if each employee has been given notice that phone calls may be monitored or recorded. However, phone calls placed by employees to outside parties may not be monitored or recorded unless the outside party has also consented. There are both criminal and civil penalties for violation of this law.
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This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros.