Sen. Karina Villa

SPRINGFIELD – Employees who are found to be underpaid by their employers could be entitled to damages worth 5% of the monthly amount they were underpaid in addition to the full underpayment amount owed under an initiative proposed by State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago), which passed the Senate Tuesday.

“Illinoisans who go to work day in and day out deserve to be justly compensated,” Villa said. “Wage theft is a crime, and this legislation will help deter the bad actors from taking advantage of those who cannot speak up.”

Currently, employees who do not receive wages in a timely manner are entitled to file a claim to recover their unpaid wages, plus damages totaling 2% of the amount of monthly underpayments. Villa’s legislation would increase the percentage paid in damages from 2% to 5% to more effectively deter wage theft by employers.

The workers typically impacted by this issue are low-wage workers, who often lack bargaining power and are not in a position to object to wage theft.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our society, and most of the owners pay their employees on time,” Villa said. “This 5% number will not even have an effect on the employers who do what’s right and pay their employees the wages they deserve.”

House Bill 118 passed the Senate with a vote of 40-15.