Illinois Employment Law: What Employers Need to Know

By Kris Janisch
Published Jan. 26, 2021

Illinois Employment Law

Illinois has a bevy of employment laws for employers to monitor. We examine some of the most important to keep an eye on.

Illinois employment law ranks among the most comprehensive in the U.S.

With so much for employers to monitor, it makes sense to brush up on the compliance issues in Illinois. Below, we run down the major employment law matters impacting companies as 2021 gets under way.

Minimum Wage

In Illinois, minimum wage increased in the middle of 2020 and again at the start of 2021.

As of Jan. 1, 2021, the state minimum wage rate is $11, with tipped employees at $6.50.

In the coming years, minimum wage will be:

  • 2022 – $12 and $7.20 for tipped employees
  • 2023 – $13 and $7.80 for tipped employees
  • 2024 – $14 and $8.40 for tipped employees
  • 2025 – $15 and $9 for tipped employees

Illinois also has a different rate for youths under 18 and those working fewer than 650 hours a year.

However, employers should also take note of Chicago and Cook County, both of which have their own minimum wage rates. Check out our County and City Minimum Wage Rate Guide for more information.

Updated rates also carry a labor law posting requirement.

Equal Pay

In 2018, Illinois amended its Equal Pay Act. The revisions went into effect in the fall of 2019.

The changes included:

  • Restricting companies from screening candidates based on prior wages
  • Banning employers from requiring applicants to disclose salary history as a condition of being hired
  • Prohibiting employers from requesting wage history as a condition of being interviewed or considered for a job

The amendments also ensure employees can discuss compensation, benefits and salary with their colleagues. Violators of the Illinois Equal Pay Act can receive fines up to $5,000 for each violation, as well as civil damages up to $10,000. Employees have a five-year window to bring action.

The measure initially went into effect in 2003 to prohibit businesses from paying workers less based on race or sex.

Paid Leave

Illinois does not have an overarching state paid leave law.

However, like minimum wage, Cook County has a paid sick leave law that allows cities within its boundaries to opt in or opt out. (Chicago also has its own paid sick leave ordinance.)

For Cook County cities that choose to adopt the ordinance, paid leave specifics include:

  • Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked
  • Maximum use of 40 hours per year
  • Accrual capped at 40 hours
  • Employees can carry over 20 hours (plus 20 more under certain federal Family and Medical Leave Act circumstances)
  • Workers can use it on the 180th calendar day after the start of their employment
  • Employers can frontload the paid sick leave hours
  • Employees generally receive the same rate of pay when taking leave

Also, Illinois employers must provide paid leave for employees to vote under certain circumstances.

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At the beginning of 2020, several measures related to the #MeToo Movement went into effect in Illinois.

  • Changes to employee contracts that protect against sexual harassment claims
  • Strengthened ability for workers to report allegations
  • Additional state agency oversight
  • Sexual harassment training requirements
  • “Panic buttons” for certain hotel and casino employees
  • Supplemental training for bar and restaurant workers
  • Permitting contract employees to bring harassment claims

Sexual Harassment Training

Specifically looking at sexual harassment training requirements in Illinois, employers must provide annual training for all workers.

Such training must include:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment
  • Examples of unlawful sexual harassment
  • A summary of applicable federal and state provisions concerning sexual harassment, including support available to victims of sexual harassment
  • A summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation and “corrective measures” of sexual harassment

Illinois officials have provided a training template for employers.

Ban the Box

Illinois is one of several states that have enacted “ban the box” laws, which prohibit companies from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history early in the hiring process.

Employers may only inquire about criminal history after the individual has been deemed qualified and an interview is scheduled, or once a conditional job offer has been made.


At the beginning of 2021, recreational use of marijuana in Illinois became legal Jan. 1 for adults 21 or older.

State officials provided guidance for employers regarding legalized marijuana in Illinois, including:

  • Companies can’t take adverse action against employees for use during non-work hours
  • Employers can take action based on marijuana in the workplace
  • Employers can reject job applicants, and discipline workers, based on a positive test
  • Company policies should be nondiscriminatory


The complexities in Illinois mirror a growing trend across the U.S. — maintaining compliance with new, changing and updated employment laws continues to be a challenge for employers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.

These are but a few of the Illinois employment laws employers must keep an eye on in 2021 and beyond. This list is not exhaustive. Employers should always research laws and establish policies that comply with the latest requirements.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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