Rep. McDermed Files Bipartisan Wage History Bill to Address Pay Equity

Springfield, IL… Reflecting the debate that shaped the last General Assembly’s efforts to pass a bill that would bring women and men’s salaries in line, longtime advocate of equal pay, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena), has filed legislation to update Illinois’ Equal Pay Act to support both employees and employers.   “As one of the few women lawyers in the cutthroat corporate world in the 80’s, I know firsthand how women can be shortchanged when it comes to fair compensation,” Rep. McDermed said. “My bill would implement the best ideas from across the nation on how to fairly address the problem and achieve our goal of wage equity.”

House Bill 881 amends the Equal Pay Act of 2003 to prohibit an employer from requiring a prospective employee to disclose their current salary and prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to sign contract or waiver that would prohibit the employee from disclosing or discussing wages or salary and for a human resources employee, supervisor, or other related employees. An employee’s pay is often based on salaries at previous jobs, which can perpetuate the gender pay gap and make it impossible for women to catch up. A 2017 field experiment from professors at NYU and Georgetown found that employers that couldn’t observe compensation history of job applicants responded by evaluating more applicants, and those more intensively, while workers hired by those employers were able to strike better wage bargains. Governor Pritzker recently signed an Executive Order barring the State from asking prospective employees about their wage history.

The legislation is nearly identical to the changes that took effect last year to the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act. However, this bill does permit for pay differentials based on geographical location of the job, education, training, or experience that are reasonably related to the particular job, as well as, if travel is a regular and necessary condition of the job. Legislation in the previous General Assembly attempted to make similar changes to the Illinois Equal Pay Act, but it was vetoed by former Governor Rauner and left out provisions that help protect employers in addition to employees.

“I strongly support wage equality and have voted multiple times in the past for equal pay legislation, but none of those bills were implemented because they did not take a bipartisan approach and they failed to properly balance the interests of all those involved” Rep. McDermed continued. “I want to see the gender gap closed and as opposed to previous bills, this legislation is a reasonable marriage of all the stakeholders that I believe would easily pass the GA with overwhelming support.”

HB 881 is reflective of the business communities’ concerns while still implementing the heart of the legislation’s efforts to reduce the gender pay gap in Illinois. The legislation gives employers a defense against liability if an employer has done a self-evaluation of their salary practices within three years of the alleged violation and are can prove that they are taking good faith steps towards reasonable progress in correcting the violations. It caps civil fines at $500 per affected employee for employers with fewer than four employees and $2,500 per affected employee for employers with four or more employees. It also provides for a claw-back if an employee recovers unpaid wages under the Act and also files a complaint or brings a sex discrimination action under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which results in additional recovery under federal law for the same violation.

HB 881 has been filed and awaits committee assignment.