Illinois Labor Laws
Over the history of the workplace, there have been many ups and downs experienced by workers in nearly every field, and workers across the state of Illinois has felt their share of it. Labor laws are created in the state to reflect what is generally believed to be fair. It includes things such as
- Establishing a minimum wage for most workers across the state. In Illinois, the current minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, a dollar above the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. A tip minimum wage of $4.25 per hour is allowed for jobs where workers customarily earn tips. Once tips are calculated in, however, these employees must make minimum wage
- Determining and enforcing rules about overtime -In Illinois, most workers must be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate if they work more than 40 hours per week. However, there has been exceptions to this rule. Certain types of workers, including salespeople, mechanics, agricultural workers, executives, radio and television workers in cities with a population under 100,000, commissioned employees, those with workplace exchange agreements, and employees at educational and childcare institutions have been exempt from having to be paid extra for overtime.
- Being allowed to take reasonable breaks for rest and meals – This is defined as getting at least a 20 minute unpaid meal break for every 7.5 hours worked, with that break being available after 5 hours. Workers under 16 must get a 30 minute break for a 5 hour shift.
Some Exceptions Will No Longer Be Made
Of all the different types of workers that have been exempt from earning minimum wage or overtime, those in caregiver and domestic jobs have been among the most effective. Workers in these fields have been predominately women, immigrants, and often represent a minority. Those who actually work in someone else’s home are most effected. A 2012 survey revealed that 2/3 were paid less than minimum wage, and a quarter were living below the poverty line. New legislation could potentially make life easier for these workers. The Illinois Workers Domestic Bill of Rights was recently signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, and is set to go into affect January 2017. The new law assures that these workers are eligible to receive minimum wage for their duties, as long as they are employed at least 8 hours a week, in order to exclude casual babysitters. Caregivers cover more than child care workers, but also include cooks, drivers, and housekeeping staff who have been known to either not get paid, or have money deducted from their checks if picky employers weren’t 100% satisfied with their work.
A New Respect for Domestic Workers (on paper)
While being given new rights, recognition, and opportunities is a good thing, it often takes more than a signature on a piece of legislation to actually take advantage of those rights. Sometimes, it isn’t until a worker asserts their rights with the help of an employment attorney that their true value is finally recognized and compensated appropriately.
Many people who have been employing domestic workers, and paying them less than minimum wage, still believe that they respect these caregivers — even to the point of thinking of them almost as family members. The new law will force them to recognize that regardless of any personal relationship that exists, they are employees and need to be acknowledged and paid accordingly. Those who don’t do satisfactory work will need to be subject to the same type of retribution or probationary period as people who work in other fields. Those who simply can’t afford to pay more may need to adjust their schedules or ask for economic assistance to make ends meet.
If you’ve been working as a caregiver, and haven’t been paid what you’re worth, it’s time to keep track and set up clear contacts and expectations between yourself and your employer in order to assure a smooth transition into a better working relationship once the law takes affect. If you need help setting this up, or enforcing the parameters of your contract, contact an attorney with knowledge of the new law and its implications to help you assert your rights.