Fighting Wage Theft to Improve Illinois’ Economy

As Attorney General, I will fight to ensure that workers are paid all their legally-owed wages and level the playing field for Illinois businesses that play by the rules.

Wage theft is an under-enforced epidemic that has depressed the Illinois economy for years. Wage theft occurs when employers violate the law by failing to pay workers minimum wage, failing to pay overtime rates, refusing to pay workers for all their hours, taking illegal paycheck deductions, stealing tips, and incorrectly treating workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Wage theft hurts workers and their families. Studies of wage theft in Illinois found widespread violations that resulted in workers losing hundreds and thousands of dollars per year. When workers are deprived of the wages they have earned, their families turn to social services and public programs to fill the gap. Workers, their families, and our communities all suffer as a result.

Wage theft hurts good businesses that pay their workers appropriately. Law-abiding businesses are routinely undercut by employers who cheat workers by failing to pay all earned wages and their fair share of taxes. Good businesses are put at a competitive disadvantage especially in sectors like construction, landscaping and janitorial services. Wage theft hurts all taxpayers because employers who cheat workers don’t pay their fair share of payroll taxes, workers compensation and unemployment. This shifts the burden to other businesses and other taxpayers.

Wage theft hurts the overall economy. Workers spend most of their pay in our communities, thus stimulating the local economy. If they are cheated of wages, our local economies are cheated.

As Attorney General, I will strengthen enforcement against wage theft. Working with other enforcement agencies, I will work to strengthen penalties, bar repeat offenders from state contracts, and hold owners individually liable for intentional wage theft. As Attorney General, I will also seek to deter wage theft by creating a culture of compliance. I will work closely with our workplace rights bureau to aggressively pursue employers who willfully and knowingly violate the law.

Because wage theft is a problem that touches many different agencies, as Attorney General, I will collaborate with other agencies, including the Department of Labor, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Department of Revenue, to crack down on businesses that break the law. Together we can do a better job of ensuring that workers get the wages they have earned, employers have a level playing field, and all employers are paying their fair share of taxes.

In addition to working with other government agencies, my office will develop relationships with the broad networks of worker centers and community organizations that are closely connected with workers across the state. Together, we will work to create and distribute new educational resources on worker rights, protect workers who fear retaliation if they complain about wage theft, and develop open lines of communication between my staff and these grassroots organizations.