The New Illinois Wage Payment And Collection Act; Does It Have It Teeth?
YES, FINALLY . . .
. . . the new amendments enact some long overdue common sense changes and makes the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act into a law that actually serves a purpose.
There is finally a common sense clause that actually protects employees from retaliation. There is also the attorney's fees clause, which means that attorney's no longer need to plead the elusive Attorney's Fees In Wage Actions Act, 705 ILCS 225/1.
I should point out that the amendments do effectively take away an employer's previous right to steal from their employees with impunity. I state the latter presuming that the threat of a class C misdemeanor probably didn't stop employers from theft, and it definitely did not prevent retaliation if an employee complained. Actually the Illinois Courts routinely held such retaliation was legal, and that the class C misdemeanor was supposed to function as the deterrent for all abuse! Thus the law actually rewarded those who broke it, and anyone complained, they were fired.
If the Illinois Department of Labor actually became functional for small claims it would be a very positive force, so long as the claimant's understand that they are better off in small claims court or finding a lawyer willing to take their case to collect a couple bucks in attorney's fees from the employee.
The law also apparently gives the Department Labor the power to prosecute their cases in civil court, whereas before, the Attorney General acted as counsel. The Department is to pay no costs, and though it is not clear to me, it states " . . . In the event there is a judgment rendered against the defendant, the court shall assess as part of such judgment the costs of such proceeding. Upon collection of such judgments the Department shall pay from the proceeds of such judgment such costs to such person who is by law entitled to same. . ." I presume that means the employee.
And lastly, the recalcitrant employer can catch a felony in addition to fines and making the the victims whole.