SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to deter wage theft, State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) sponsored a new law that increases the amount employers who underpay their employees must pay in damages.

“It is unacceptable for an employer to withhold hardworking employees’ wages,” Villa said. “Working families across Illinois deserve to be justly compensated and should receive increased damages for cases of wage theft.” 

Currently, employees who do not receive wages in a timely manner are entitled to file a claim to recover their unpaid wages, plus damages totaling 2% of the amount of monthly underpayments. Villa’s legislation will increase the percentage paid in damages from 2% to 5% to more effectively deter wage theft by employers.

The workers typically impacted by this issue are low-wage workers, who often lack bargaining power and are not in a position to object to wage theft.

"People deserve to be paid for the hours they work," said State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who sponsored the bill in the House. "And employers who don't pay should be held accountable for making their workers whole. This law is a huge step toward deterring wage theft and giving restitution to its victims."

House Bill 118 was signed into law Friday and takes effect immediately.