Illinois Labor Laws

Illinois Labor Laws

In the U.S., federal laws play a crucial role in regulating the amount of time employees spend within the workplace. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was first established in 1938, is instrumental in setting standards for time management, offering guidelines for hourly wage rates, overtime pay, accurate recordkeeping of employees' work hours, and more. 

Another essential federal law governing time management is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This legislation grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as childbirth, adoption, or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. 

The FLSA and FMLA are indispensable statutes designed to safeguard workers’ rights, ensure they receive equitable compensation for their contributions, and continue to foster accountability and minimize instances of abuse or exploitation. Violations of federal time management laws by employers can result in legal consequences, including fines, back pay, and damages. 

While federal law provides a structure that all states must follow, each state is entitled to create its own labor laws. This article will examine the state of Illinois and the rules and regulations that exist within the Prairie State. 

Wages in Illinois

The Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1, governs the payment of wages to employees and the deductions an employer can make from an employee's paycheck. The act applies to all employers and employees in Illinois, including those working within local government and school districts; however, employees of the state or federal government are exempt.

Illinois’ Minimum Wage Laws

As of Jan. 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Illinois is $14 per hour, a $1 per hour increase over the 2023 rate. This rate is scheduled to increase to $15 per hour in 2025. 

The minimum wage for workers under 18 is $12 per hour. 

In 2010, the state’s minimum wage rose from $8 to $8.25 and remained at that amount through 2019. In 2020, the rate grew to $9.25 per hour and has increased every year since. 

Chicago Minimum Wage Laws

Per the state’s minimum wage ordinance, Chicago’s minimum wage increases every year on July 1. 

The city's minimum wage is tiered based on the number of individuals a business employs. Companies with 21 or more employees are deemed large businesses, and those with four to 20 employees are classified as small businesses. The minimum wage for large employees is set to increase according to the Consumer Price Index or 2.5%, whichever is lower. This provision has been in place since 2021. 

The minimum wage in Chicago is currently $15.80 per hour for large businesses, $15 for small businesses, and $13.80 for workers under 18.

The minimum wage for city contracts or concessionaire agreements is $16.80 per hour, with a special rate of $8.80 for tipped concessionaire employees.

Tipped Minimum Wage in Illinois

Employers may pay 60% of the minimum wage to employees who receive gratuities, thus the minimum wage for tipped employees in Illinois is $8.40. Employers are required to make up the difference if employees' tips plus wage don't exceed the standard minimum wage.

Tipped Minimum Wage in Chicago

The current tipped minimum wage in Chicago is $9.48 for large businesses, $9 for small businesses, and $8.10 for workers under 18. If a tipped worker’s wage plus tips do not equal at least the full minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference.

In October 2023, Chicago's city council approved the One Fair Wage initiative, which will effectively end subminimum wage for tipped workers in 2028. Starting July 1, 2024, the current $9 tipped hourly wage is scheduled to increase by 8% for five years until it reaches $15.80. 

Illinois Payment Laws

The Wage Payment and Collection Act establishes when, where, and how often wages must be paid and prohibits deductions from wages or final compensation without the employee's consent. The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) also provides assistance to workers in the collection of wages and final compensation including unused vacation pay, commissions, bonuses, or other fringe benefits. State and federal government employees are exempt and cannot file claims under the act.

Every employer in Illinois is required to pay all wages earned no later than semi-monthly, and wages are to be paid no later than 13 days after the end of the pay period in which the wages were earned. Wages of executive, administrative, and professional employees, as defined in the FLSA, may be paid once per month. Commissions may be paid once per month as well, as stated in 820 ILCS 115/3.

Employers may pay optional, lower minimum wage rates (up to 50 cents less per hour) for new employees in their first 90 days and employees 18 years old or younger. Tipped employees may be paid at 50% of the minimum wage.

Minimum Wage Exemptions

Exceptions to the minimum wage regulations in Illinois encompass specific worker categories. These include:

Minors: For employees 18 and younger who work less than 650 hours a calendar year, the minimum wage is $12. Those working more than 650 hours must be paid the state’s minimum wage rate. 

Agriculture: Employees working in agricultural occupations, including planting, nurturing, and tending to crops or livestock, are exempt from Illinois minimum wage requirements.

Car Washes: Employers who operate car washes or automobile service companies that receive tips are exempt from paying workers the state minimum wage. 

Camps: Employers who operate summer camps or other seasonal facilities are exempt from Illinois minimum wage requirements during employees’ first eight weeks of employment. 

Student Learners: Student learners, vocational apprentices, or those in training programs may be exempt from the state’s minimum wage, though a special license will need to be obtained from the IDOL. 

Illinois Overtime Laws

Illinois Labor Code 820 § 105/4a requires employers to pay employees overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their typical rate unless an exemption applies. This rule applies if employees work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Illinois Meals and Breaks

The One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA) requires most employers to provide employees with breaks during the workday and at least one day rest from work. 


Employers must provide employees with at least a 20-minute meal break for every seven-and-a-half hours worked. This break must be issued no later than five hours after the shift’s start time. 

Employees must be provided an additional 20-minute meal break if they work a 12-hour shift or longer. Bathroom breaks (or other short reprieves) do not count toward meal beaks. 


Employees must have at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every consecutive seven-day period in addition to the regular period of rest allowed at the close of each working day. 

There are penalties for employers who break these rules. Employers with fewer than 25 employees are subject to a $250 fee per offense to be paid to the employee and up to $250 per employee per offense payable to the IDOL. For employers with more than 25 employees, the fee increases to $500 per employee and offense. 

A separate offense may be filed each day a meal break is not provided to an employee and every time a 24-hour break is not provided after an employee has worked seven consecutive days. 

Illinois Nursing Mother Breaks

An employer shall provide reasonable break times for an employee who needs to express breast milk for her nursing infant child each time the employee has the need to express milk for up to one year after the child's birth. These break times may run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. An employer may not reduce an employee's compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing a baby, and the employer shall provide reasonable break times as needed by the employee unless doing so would create an undue hardship.

Illinois Leave Requirements

The Paid Leave for All Workers Act (PLAWA) allows employees to earn up to 40 hours of leave from work each year. Workers can use paid leave for any reason, and employers may not require employees to provide a basis for their time off requests. If an employer has an existing policy, certain exceptions may apply. There are certain categories of workers that are not subject to the law, such as school district employees organized under the school code or park district employees organized under the park district code.

Cook County and Chicago have their own paid leave ordinances, which were in place prior to the implementation of the PLAWA, and are therefore exempt from the law. 

Vacation Leave

An employee is not entitled to vacation, severance pay, sick pay, or holiday pay by law in Illinois. However, if an employer has a policy that guarantees the employee any of these benefits, the employee may be entitled to receive payment upon separation. 

If and when an employee leaves a position, his or her employer must compensate him or her for any earned vacation leave upon the separation. Employers are prohibited from denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon termination. 

Sick Leave

Effective Jan. 1, 2024, SB 0208 requires employers to provide employees working within Illinois up to 40 hours of paid leave per 12-month period. Employees must be employed for 90 days before they are entitled to use paid leave, and employees hired before Jan. 1, 2024, can begin using paid leave effective March 31, 2024.

Employees accrue paid leave at the rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked up to a minimum of 40 hours over 12 months. Employers are welcome to offer more than 40 hours if they’d like. 

The Employee Sick Leave Act (Public Act 99-0841) requires employers to allow employees to use a portion of their sick time to care for ailing relatives. The act requires employers to allow employees to use such time for absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of the employee’s child, spouse, [domestic partner], sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent, for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance may be necessary, on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.  

Under the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which went into effect on July 1, 2017, many Chicago employers are required to provide paid sick leave to eligible employees. Any employee who works at least 80 hours for an employer in Chicago within any 120-day period is eligible for paid sick leave. Employees begin to accrue paid sick leave on the first calendar day after they begin their employment. For every 40 hours worked, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave. 

Holiday Leave

Illinois currently honors 14 days as state holidays. In 2024, those holidays are: New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 15), Lincoln’s Birthday (Feb. 12) Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 19), Memorial Day (May 27), Juneteenth (June 19), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (Sept. 4), Columbus Day (Oct. 14), Veterans Day (Nov. 11), Thanksgiving (Nov. 28 & 29), and Christmas (Dec. 24 & 25).  

Private employers are not required to provide holiday leave. If they choose to, they must comply with their own established policies.

Jury Duty Leave

Employers in Illinois must excuse employees from work to serve when summoned for duty on a petit or grand jury, regardless of their employment shift at the time. That said, an employer cannot require a night shift worker to work at night if he or she is performing jury duty during the day. An employee must give reasonable notice of jury service within 10 days of the date it was issued. Upon an employee’s return, he or she cannot lose seniority due to a jury-related absence. 

Voting Leave

Every employee in Illinois is entitled, after giving notice, to two hours off work to vote, provided the employee's working hours begin less than two hours after the opening of the polls and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls. The law does not specify whether this time off is paid.

Severance Pay

A severance arrangement is a formal contract outlining termination conditions, typically tied to compensatory pay and benefits. In Illinois, employees are typically not entitled to severance pay. 

Child Labor Laws in Illinois

Illinois Child Labor Law (820 ILCS 205/1) regulates the employment of minors under the age of 16. The law protects children by requiring all minors to have employment certificates. These certificates confirm a minor is old enough to work, physically capable to perform the job, and that the job will not interfere with the minor's education. Minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations and are prohibited from working before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. However, from June 1 through Labor Day, work is permitted until 9 p.m.

An authorized agent, such as a school superintendent, may issue employment certificates for minors enrolled in school and children under the age of 13 who are involved in certain activities, such as talent shows or movie production.

Employers are prohibited from hiring teens under 16 years of age who fail to present an approved work permit. Those found to be employing teens without having work permits on the premises are subject to fines by the IDOL.

Illinois Hiring Laws

Illinois offers numerous laws dedicated to protecting employees, including regulations covering pregnancy, wage, leave, overtime pay, and more. 

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) prohibits private employers with one or more employee from discriminating on the basis of age, ancestry, arrest record, childbirth, citizenship status, color, concealed convictions, disability, housing status, marital status, medical conditions, military status, national origin, pregnancy, protective order status, race, religion, sexual orientation, or unfavorable military discharge. 

The Equal Pay Act of 2003 prohibits employers from paying unequal wages to men and women for doing the same or substantially similar work. This rule does not apply if the wage difference is based upon a seniority system, merit system, a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or factors other than gender. 

The Wages of Women and Minors Act prohibits an employer from paying any woman or minor an oppressive, unreasonable, or less-than-fair wage.

An employer in Illinois may not discharge or discriminate against any individual for inquiring about, disclosing, comparing, or otherwise discussing the employee's wages or the wages of any other employee. 

Illinois Termination Laws

Illinois is an "employment-at-will" state, meaning an employer or employee may terminate a professional relationship at any time without any reason or cause.

An employee having a non-status appointment, as described in Section 250.70, may be terminated by his or her employer at any time during the training period and/or upon completion of the work assignment.

An employee on disability leave who has exhausted all of his or her disability benefits and is unable to resume the duties and responsibilities of a position in his or her class may be terminated from employment. 

An employee who fails to report for duty after he or she has exhausted benefits under the FMLA or on disability leave may be terminated from employment.

Occupational Safety in Illinois

Occupational safety and health standards enforcement for employers in Illinois is a shared responsibility of the U.S. Department of Labor (federal OSHA) and the Illinois Department of Labor (IL OSHA). 

By March 2, 2024, IL OSHA will require certain state and local government employers to electronically report work-related injury and illness data to the federal ITA system.

Miscellaneous Illinois Labor Laws

There are a few additional laws in Illinois we haven’t covered. These include:

Background Checks: Only certain occupations require background checks in the state of Illinois, these include armed security guards, carnival workers, firefighters, health care personnel, locksmiths, mental health facilities personnel, park district personnel, peace officers, private alarm contractors, private detectives, private security contractors, public school personnel, school bus drivers, youth care facility personnel,  and youth interventionists.  

Credit Checks: Employers are prohibited from using or asking for a credit check on their employees or applicants unless they are exempt from the law. Exempt occupations include those working in debt collection, financial institutions, insurance businesses, and law enforcement. 

Criminal Records: Employers with 15 or more employees are forbidden from inquiring about criminal records during an interview. Further inquiry can be made once a job offer has been made. 

Drug Testing: Despite alcohol and recreational marijuana use being legal in the state, employers are allowed to test for both and discipline an employee if there is reasonable suspicion the usage is affecting an employee’s job performance.

Non-Compete Clauses: Illinois law forbids employers from requesting a noncompete clause in an employment contract, provided the employee earns up to $75,000 per year. This allows workers to have another job, provide services to other employers, or operate their own businesses.

Social Media Laws: Employers are not allowed to ask employees or applicants to disclose information about their personal social media accounts. Employers are also prohibited from requesting an employee access his or her social media accounts in their presence or ask him or her to add contacts connected to or associated with the business. 

Work-Related Injuries: The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission handles claims for benefits based on work-related injuries and diseases.

While OnTheClock has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information within this article, we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Before moving forward with any business decision, we encourage you to consult with a qualified professional. We waive liability for the misuse or inaccuracy of any of the information contained herein. 

OnTheClock Employee Time Tracking

Written by

Herb Woerpel

Herb Woerpel is a copywriter with OnTheClock. He has 17-plus years of professional journalism experience working for community and national media outlets.

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