There is nothing worse than working a full time job and having your paycheck be less than what you earned. Some employers will make illegal deductions from employees wages in order to keep more of the profits for themselves. Currently, this is only a misdemeanor in Illinois, but legislators are working to make sure that this type of theft is a felony.
Stealing a product from a store is a felony, punishable with jail time. But for the owners of that store to steal from their employees is currently a misdemeanor, punishable only with a fine. Elected leaders are looking to change that balance of power between workers and business owners. Further, they are looking to add language to the law that makes repeat offenders ineligible for state contracts for five years.
“This proposal will help working families by ensuring that any business that is willfully withholding wages is held accountable,” said state Rep. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, to the Sun-Times, who sponsored the legislation.
Nearly $50 million in wage theft complaints have been compiled in the years since this has been tracked. The average delay for a worker to receive their missing income is over 12 months. For many owners, this is just a cost of doing business. This new legislation is looking to change that practice state wide by upping the enforcement and consequences for these types of illegal schemes.
“We have to think about [each of] these as small, incremental changes,” said Sophia Zaman, executive director of the Raise the Floor Alliance, an umbrella legal and policy advocacy group for the state’s eight workers centers to the Chicago Reporter. “How do we make the path to justice easier for workers?”