Following up on its recently-elected governor’s campaign pledge, the Illinois legislature has fast-tracked the “Lifting Up Illinois Working Families Act,” under which the state’s minimum wage will increase to $15.00 per hour over the next six years. First introduced on February 6th, the bill already has been passed by the state senate and likely is to be passed quickly by the state house of representatives as well. Governor J.B. Pritzker has stated that he would like to sign the bill into law prior to his first budget speech on February 20th.

Under the bill, the hourly minimum wage will increase to $9.25 on January 1, 2020; to $10.00 on July 1, 2020; to $11.00 on January 1, 2021; and an additional $1.00 per hour each January 1st thereafter, until reaching $15.00 on January 1, 2025.  Absent further revision by the house of representatives, the law will permit employers to pay a slightly lower wage rate to employees under the age of 18, provided they work less than 650 hours a year. The law also will provide a tax credit to those employers with less than 50 full-time-equivalent employees.

In addition to increasing the minimum wage, the law will increase the remedies available to employees who are paid less than minimum wage. Employees will now be able to recover triple the amount of the underpayment; reasonable attorney’s fees and costs; and an additional payment (effectively, interest) of 5% of the amount of the underpayment for each month it remains unpaid. In addition, employers will have to pay a statutory penalty of $1,500 to the Illinois Department of Labor Wage Theft Enforcement Fund and, on top of already-existing statutory penalties, the law will now impose a penalty, of $100 per each affected employee, on an employer who fails to maintain proper payroll records. That penalty likewise will be paid to the Wage Theft Enforcement Fund.

If, as expected, the bill becomes law, Illinois will become the third largest state (employee-wise) to have passed a $15 minimum wage bill, surpassing New Jersey (which itself enacted a similar law earlier this week) and behind only California and New York in this respect. Notably, two localities within Illinois already have minimum wage rates higher than the state rate: Chicago, at $12.00 an hour ($13.00 beginning in July) and Cook County, at $11.00 an hour. These local rates would be superseded if and when exceeded by the state rate.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor the bill’s development and will report any changes to its expected passage. If you have any questions about the impending Illinois minimum wage law, or any other wage and hour questions, please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney(s) with whom you regularly work.