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Right to Work
Is Illinois a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Illinois.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Illinois a right to work state?

Illinois is not a right-to-work state. In April 2019, Democratic Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that officially rolled back right-to-work protections that the state's southern town of Lincolnshire had established. Lincolnshire had passed an ordinance establishing itself as a "right to work zone" in 2015, but it was shortly thereafter overturned by a federal court, which ruled that only states have the authority to adopt laws.

"From the start, right to work was an idea cooked up to lower wages, slash benefits and hurt our working families," Pritzker said, according to a press release on a public speech. "'Right to work' has always meant, 'right to work for less money,' and there is just no place for that in Illinois. This is a state where workers have the right to come together and negotiate a better deal. This is a state that listens when workers raise their voice for fair wages, good benefits and safe working conditions. This is a state where working families can thrive"

Can you be fired for any reason in Illinois?

Illinois is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Again, proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Illinois labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in New York of which you should be aware.

1. Overtime

Illinois labor laws "require employers to pay employees overtime at a rate of 1½ time their regular rate when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, unless otherwise exempt," according to the Employment Law Handbook.

2. Wage Payment and Collection Act

"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," according to the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). "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.

The Wage Payment and Collection Act applies to all employers and employees in the state of Illinois, including employees of units of local government and school districts, but excluding employees of the State or Federal governments. 

According to the law:

  • "Every employer shall be required, at least semi-monthly, to pay every employee all wages earned during the semi-monthly pay period."
  • "Wages of executive, administrative and professional employees, as defined in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1939, may be paid once a month."
  • "Commissions may be paid once a month."
  • "At the request of a person employed by an employment or labor placement agency which, in the ordinary course of business, makes daily wage payments to employees, the agency shall hold the daily wages and make either weekly or semi-monthly payments."
  • "Upon the written request of the employee, the wage shall be paid in a single check representing the wages earned during the period, either weekly or semi-monthly, designated by the employee in accordance with Section 4 of this Act."
  • "Employment and labor placement agencies that make daily wage payments shall provide written notification to all daily wage payment employees of the right to request weekly or semi-monthly checks. The employer may provide this notice by conspicuously posting the notice at the location where the wages are received by the daily wage employees."

3. Child Labor Law

The Child Labor Law regulates the employment of workers under the age of 16 years old, according to the IDOL. The law protects children by:

  1. "Requiring employment certificates. The certificate confirms that 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."
  2. "Prohibiting work in hazardous occupations."
  3. "Limiting working hours. All work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. is prohibited. However, work until 9 p.m. is allowed from June 1 through Labor Day."

What are some resources for Illinois employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Illinois, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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