July 31, 2019: Amendment to Equal Pay Act Restricts Inquiries Regarding Salary History

The Governor has signed legislation amending the Equal Pay Act of 2003 to make it unlawful for Illinois employers to screen job applicants based on their current or prior wages or salary history. The law (Public Act 101-0177) bars employers from requesting or requiring that job applicants provide a wage or salary history to be considered for employment or as a condition of employment.

Public Act 101-0177 also makes it illegal for an employer to seek any information regarding the wages, salary, benefits or other compensation of a job applicant from any current or former employer. This provision, however, does not apply if the job applicant’s wage or salary history is a matter of public record under the Freedom of Information Act or any other State or federal law. This restriction also does not apply if the wage or salary information is contained in a document completed by the applicant’s current or former employer and made public to comply with State or federal law. Also exempt is information regarding internal candidates who are current employees applying for a different position with the same employer.

Public Act 101-0177 specifies that the Act’s provisions are not intended to prevent an employer from engaging in discussions regarding a job applicant’s expectations relating to wages, salary, benefits, and other compensation.

An employer is not in violation of the Act if the job applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses her or his wage or salary history. The employer, however, is barred from considering the voluntary disclosure in determining whether to offer the applicant a position, in making an offer of compensation, or in determining future wages, salary and other compensation.

Under Public Act 101-0177, an employee who alleges a violation may recover actual damages, special damages (not to exceed $10,000), costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Employees found to have been paid less than they were entitled to under the Act also may recover compensatory damages, if the employees can demonstrate that the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference, as well as punitive damages. In addition, employers found to be in violation are subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000 for each violation.

Public Act 101-0177 also amends the Equal Pay Act to make it unlawful for an employer to require employees to sign a contract or waiver that prohibits the employees from discussing their wages, salary, benefits, or other compensation. An employer may, however, bar employees with access to other employees’ wage or salary information (i.e. human resources staff and supervisors) from disclosing that information without prior written consent from the employee whose information is requested.

Public Act 101-0177 takes effect on September 29, 2019. The full text of Public Act 101-0177 is available here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/101/PDF/101-0177.pdf

If you have any questions about Public Act 101-0177 and how it may impact your current policies, procedures, or practices, please do not hesitate to contact one of our attorneys by e-mail or by phone at (630) 313-4750.