Since 2003, Illinois has maintained a law similar to the federal Equal Pay Act, requiring men and women to be paid the same compensation for similar work. Under the Illinois Equal Pay Act (“IEPA”), it is a violation to pay different wages to different genders unless the employer can demonstrate that a factor other than gender formed the basis for the differential. Recently, the IEPA has been expanded to include African American employees who now have the same right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor for wage disparity.
The process for proving and defending a discrimination claim under this provision remains the same. In the case of either gender or race, the Department can refer the claim to the Illinois Human Rights Department for investigation and enforcement if the violations overlap with existing discrimination laws under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”).
One notable difference between the two laws, however, involves the statute of limitations. Although, recent amendments to the IHRA provides that a claimant has up to 300 days to file a complaint, a claim under the IEPA could be filed up to one year after the alleged violation, an approximate two-month difference. In addition, the IEPA can award damages for unequal wages as far back as three years from the date of the last known violation.