In July 2015, Chicago raised its minimum wage to $10/hour by amending its Minimum Wage Ordinance. Unfortunately, the law has had little employer compliance, in large part due to the city’s lackluster enforcement of the law. The mission of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Wage and Hour Project is to help workers assert their rights to a fair wage by litigating cases pursuant to the Minimum Wage Ordinance and in turn force Chicago to confront this gaping hole in its primary wage and hour law.
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee will be holding a free clinic for workers to discuss their legal options should they possibly have stolen wages. The clinic runs Mondays 5-8 at the John Marshall Law School. Call ahead to make an appointment: (312) 202-3659.
The Minimum Wage: the federal Fair Labor Standards Act creates a federal “floor” that requires most workers be paid at least $7.25/hour. State and local governments are permitted to raise the minimum wage for workers employed in their jurisdiction. In Illinois, most workers must be paid $8.25/hour; most Chicago workers must be paid $10/hour.
Tipped employees in Chicago must earn a base hourly pay of $5.45/hour with tips. The total rate of pay per hour must still at least be $10/hour. If not, the employer must make up the difference.
An employer must pay the minimum wage each week and must make timely payment of those wages.
Stolen wages: A worker has the right to be compensated for all hours worked. This issue frequently arises when an employer fails to pay a worker’s final paycheck or does not pay a worker for putting in extra hours.
Overtime: Most workers are owed 1.5 times their “regular rate of pay” for hours worked over 40 per workweek. This is known as “time-and-a-half.” So, if your regular rate of pay is Chicago’s minimum wage ($10/hour), your overtime premium is $15/hour for each hour worked over 40.
Just because you are salaried does not mean you are not entitled to overtime. Some executives, administrators, and professionals are exempt from overtime payments, but not all. Employers often misclassify employees as “assistant managers” to get around having to pay the overtime premium.
Independent Contractors: Employers often incorrectly label employees as “independent contractors” to avoid compliance with wage and hour laws. The key question here is: who controls and directs the manner in which the work is performed? If you go to work for someone who sets your hours, rate of pay, provides your equipment/materials, and trains you, you are likely an employee and covered by the wage and hour laws described above.
Illegal deductions: Employers oftentimes unlawfully deduct money from a worker’s pay. Examples of illegal deductions include: the cost of uniforms, inventory damage, training expenses, advanced vacation pay, and medical examination costs. These deductions are generally illegal unless the worker has signed an express written agreement allowing for these deductions at the time the deductions were made.
Retaliation: It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for exercising their rights under wage and hour laws. This is a two part test: first, there has to be a protected activity. Second: the employer has to retaliate because the worker participated in the protected activity. Protected activities include, but are not limited to: filing lawsuits, testifying about wage and hour violations, filing administrative complaints, or reporting/disclosing illegal behavior. Retaliation can include, but is not limited to: termination, failure to promote, unjustified poor performance reviews, adverse schedule changes, punitive assignment of undesirable work, and other acts of harassment.
Call the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee at 312-202-3659 to set up an appointment for a consultation.
Attend a free wage and hour clinic at the John Marshall Law School, located at 315 S Plymouth Ct (use the Jackson street or State street entrances). The clinic runs Mondays 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and beginning Monday, January 25 and ending April 25. Call ahead to make an appointment.
Contact Monica Ghosh, an attorney at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.