The Chicago City Council unanimously passed a wage theft law that activists hope will become the standard for protecting employees from dishonest employers across the United States. The new law states that companies who are convicted of wage theft of employees, either through unpaid overtime, withholding tips or providing an hourly pay that does not meet the minimum wage requirements, could have their business licenses revoked. Because the Federal Department of Labor has had cutbacks in staffing across the United States, unscrupulous companies have been able to take advantage of low wage earners without fear of punishment. A 2008 survey by the National Employment Law Center suggested that nearly two thirds of low wage earners had experienced at least one pay-related violation.
The law equally protects companies who may accidentally miscalculate workers’ pay by including the phrase “willful or egregious violations” when specifying the loss of a business’s license.
Several years earlier, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a State of Illinois anti-wage theft law which added jail time to the list of potential consequences for offenders. Now, in addition to that law, companies doing business in the City of Chicago risk losing their business licenses if they are found guilty of cheating their employees.