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May 11, 2003

Governor gives women another reason to celebrate on Mother’s Day, signs Equal Pay bill into law
State Dept. of Labor statistics show women’s paychecks still lag behind men’s

CHICAGO – Surrounded by his wife and two daughters, legislators, and women’s advocates, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich honored Mother’s Day by signing into law the Illinois Equal Pay Act.  The new law expands the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by covering more workers, providing better enforcement mechanisms, improving public awareness and helping employers eliminate pay disparities.


“Women in Illinois currently earn only about 70 cents for every dollar a man earns doing comparable work.  That is not only unfair – it is wrong,” Blagojevich said.  “From now on, if an employer pays men more than women for the same work – that will be against the law.  We’re going to make sure every worker and every business is fully aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.”


An April 2003 report compiled by the Illinois Department of Labor and based on the most recent census data indicates that Illinois women are still earning less than men – only $.71 for every $1.00 earned by a man.  The disparity exists in every region of the state, and in every ethnic category.  (The complete report is available on the Illinois Department of Labor’s website at www.state.il.us/agency/idol).  Illinois’ pay gap is worse than the national average of $.73 paid to women for every $1.00 paid to men.


“Forty years ago the U.S. government promised the working women of America equal pay for equal work.  The federal act of 1963 was a good start – but progress has been slow,” Blagojevich said.  “Closing the earning gap is more than an issue of basic fairness, it makes good economic sense.  Women make up half our workforce – the more they bring home, the more Illinois families will have to spend on goods and services in their communities.”


The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying a man more for doing the same or similar work as a woman, except if the wage difference is based on seniority, merit or another valid factor other than gender.


The new Illinois Equal Pay Act expands the scope of the original law to cover all public and private employers with four or more employees.  An additional 330,000 Illinois workers will enjoy protection from gender-based discrimination in pay.


In addition, the new law stiffens penalties for employers who violate the act.  If an employer is found guilty of pay discrimination, they will be required to make up the wage difference to the employee, pay legal costs, and may be subject to civil fines of up to $2,500 per violation.


The new law requires employers to post a notice in their workplace summarizing workers’ rights under the act.  The Department of Labor will conduct ongoing outreach and education and provide helpful information to employers, labor organizations, professional associations and the legislature regarding pay inequity and effective means to eliminate disparities.


“It’s such a great honor to mark my first Mother’s Day in office by signing into law a bill that its sponsors, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie and Sen. Carol Ronen in the General Assembly have spent years fighting for,” the governor commented.  “And one that will give working women across Illinois the right to equal pay for equal work.”


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