Just when you thought you had a handle on the various governmental departments, agencies, and bureaus tasked with maintaining workplace compliance, the city of Chicago recently created the Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”) to investigate and remedy wage-related claims brought by employees. The OLS is designed to enforce ordinances established by the city of Chicago relating to minimum wage and paid sick time, not to be confused with state or federal minimum wage guidelines, which are enforced by other governmental units. One of the stated goals of the OLS is to ensure that no business obtains an unfair economic advantage at the expense of other businesses by failing to comply with Chicago’s wage laws.
If the OLS has reason to believe that an employer violated the city’s minimum wage or paid sick time ordinance, it can order the employer to deposit funds or a bond to cover the estimated wages due. Additionally, an employer must notify its employees that it is under investigation, and within five days of an investigation being open, the OLS will post on its website a list of all the employers under investigation. Beginning in 2020, the OLS will post on its website aggregate data including the number of complaints, investigations, resolutions, etc.
The OLS may have up to three (3) years from the date of the alleged violation to commence an investigation. Upon issuance of a final “Director’s Order,” an employer may be ordered to pay unpaid wages, liquidated damages, civil penalties and fines. Additionally, the employer will be barred from bidding on any additional city contracts for a period of one year.
In creating the OLS, the city of Chicago joins other cities like New York and San Francisco in beefing up its wage law enforcement. To avoid unintended violation, Chicago employers are reminded to pay close attention to overtime, sick pay allotment, revised minimum wage requirements and other compensation matters that can sometimes be confusing.
Townsel Law Firm defends Chicago-area businesses in labor and employment-related disputes.