State and federal employment laws protect your rights from the time you start job hunting through your last day on the job and sometimes beyond. Workers in Illinois should have this useful information:
The Job Search
Potential employers may not discriminate against you based on circumstances that are not relevant to performance, such as age or religion. They may not include such factors in help-wanted ads, hiring decisions or interviews. Illegal interview questions include:
- Are you married?
- Are you planning to have children?
- What country are you from?
Fair Pay for Time Worked
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, most employers must pay most employees at least the federal minimum wage. Overtime pay is 1.5 times base wage for working more than 40 hours in one week.
Illinois' minimum wage law applies to companies with at least four non-family employees and sets a higher wage than federal law. Companies covered by both laws must follow the more beneficial state law.
Safety at Work
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guarantees most private-sector employees the right to a work environment free from risk of serious injury. A similar state program covers public employees. Your employer may not punish you for reporting hazards in the workplace.
Workers' Compensation Benefits
Most workers injured or sickened on the job are entitled to benefits from the state's workers' compensation insurance, which nearly all companies with employees must carry. It will pay you, at minimum, for necessary medical care and expenses associated with your injury.
Learn more about worker comp frequently asked questions.
Protected Time Off
Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), many employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to take care of their own serious illness, a close family member or a new child.
Illinois law also allows for a few days or hours off if:
- A family member is about to be deployed in the military.
- You were a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
- You need to attend a child's school conference.
With some restrictions, you are entitled to two hours off work to vote.
Harassment at Work
Harassment is unwelcome, discriminatory behavior based on characteristics such as race or disability that create a hostile work environment. The behavior may be sexual or non-sexual. Federal law prohibits anyone—coworkers, supervisors, and even business clients, from harassing you at work.
In Illinois, if you don't have an employment contract, either side may end employment without notice and without cause. But employers may not fire you for discriminatory reasons, such as:
You may be entitled to unused vacation pay in your final paycheck if you don't have a contract stating otherwise.
When you leave your job, you may remain eligible for certain benefits for a short time:
- Unemployment benefits are available to people who lose their jobs for reasons that are not their fault and who meet certain earnings thresholds.
- COBRA is an insurance program allowing many employees, their spouses and dependent children to continue the employer's group health coverage for up to 18 months, or longer in special cases.
Find Legal Advice for Specific Questions
This article provides a very brief overview of a few areas of employment law. For information specific to your situation, talk with an Illinois employment attorney.