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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Illinois

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Illinois.

At-Will Employment

Illinois is an "employment at-will" state, meaning that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without any reason or cause. The employer, however, cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, marital status, physical or mental handicap, military service or unfavorable military discharge. (775 ILCS 5/) Illinois Human Rights Act.

Right-to-Work Laws

There are no federal right-to-work laws in place, so each state chooses whether to enact this legislation. Illinois is not a right-to-work state and does not have state laws against the union security clause.

Immigration Verification

The E-Verify Program is an internet-based program operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in collaboration with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The E-Verify Program is available to employers at no cost and is a voluntary program. This law applies to employers conducting business in the state of Illinois. This law covers any employee or applicant for employment alleging that their rights and protections under this Act have been denied.

An employer is prohibited from using the E-Verify Program to check the immigration status of current employees or to pre-screen prospective employees that have not been offered a position with the company. Additionally, employers or any of their representatives cannot discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee or prospective employee for filing a complaint with DHS or for remedies sought in favor of the employee or prospective employee.

Drug Testing

Illinois requires employers on State public works projects to maintain a drug-free workplace.

Illinois and Recreational Marijuana - Illinois HB 1438

  • Legalizes recreational marijuana effective January 1, 2020, for those ages 21 and older
  • Employers are not required to permit employee use of marijuana while at work, while performing job duties or while on call
  • Requires certain changes to drug-free workplace policies and procedures:
    • Employers can have policies addressing drug testing, smoking marijuana, marijuana storage, etc., provided that the policy is applied in a nondiscriminatory manner
    • Employers are not required to accommodate employees being under the influence or the use of marijuana in the workplace
    • Employers must have "good faith belief" that an employee is under the influence – can be established using specific, articulable symptoms, but not strictly a drug test
  • Employers should use a positive drug test for marijuana in conjunction with specific signs and symptoms of impairment before taking action
  • Employers cannot take action based on the use of lawful products (marijuana) outside of work hours

Jury Duty Leave

In Illinois, employers are required to provide employees with unpaid time off for reporting to jury selection or jury duty. Employees may have to show the employer the jury summons in order to be given the necessary leave. The employer can never punish the employee for missing work to attend jury duty. However, if missing work would cause the employer undue hardship, it may be considered as an acceptable jury duty excuse. 705 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 310/10.1

Voting Leave

Illinois law requires employers to allow employee to take paid voting leave for up to two hours if the employee's working hours begin less than two hours after the opening of the polls and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls. Employers may specify the hours from which employees may be absent to vote but cannot penalize employees for lawfully choosing to take voting leave. Employers may deny an employee the right to take leave to vote if the employee did not apply for the leave prior to the day of the election. Illinois Stat. 10 ILCS 5/17-15

Parental Leave

Illinois does not have laws requiring employers to offer parental leave. Unless the employer has its own parental leave or disability leave policy, the employee will have to rely on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take time off for a new child. The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period for a variety of health and caretaking reasons, including bonding with a new child. This leave applies equally to men and women, and to new parents of biological, adoptive or foster children.

Smoking Laws

The Smoke-free Illinois Act prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces, including offices, theaters, museums, libraries, educational institutions, schools, commercial establishments, enclosed shopping centers and retail stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs and gaming facilities. (410 ILCS 82/) Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Break Time to Express Milk

In Illinois, an employer shall provide reasonable break time to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her nursing infant child each time the employee has the need to express milk for one year after the child's birth. The break time may run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. An employer may not reduce an employee's compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing a baby. An employer shall provide reasonable break time as needed by the employee unless to do so would create an undue hardship. (820 ILCS 260/10)

Meal Breaks

Illinois requires that employees receive a lunch break of at least 20 minutes, no later than five hours after the start of the work period, if they work a shift of seven and one-half hours or more. (820 ILCS 140/3)

Minimum Wage

Beginning January 1, 2021, Illinois guarantees a minimum wage of $11 per hour for workers 18 years of age and older. An employer where gratuities are paid to employee, may pay 60 percent of the minimum wage to its employees. Employers may apply for licenses to pay sub-minimum rates to learners and certain workers with physical and mental limitations. Overtime must be paid after 40 hours of work per week at time and one-half the regular rate. (820 ILCS 105/) Minimum Wage Law.


In Illinois, no employer shall employ any of his employees for a workweek of more than 40 hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed. Some exceptions apply. Illinois Statutes Chapter 820. Employment § 105/4a.Overtime compensation

Wage and Recordkeeping

Illinois employers are required to maintain a variety of wage and hour records for at least three years. There are additional recordkeeping requirements for employees who receive paid vacation, tipped employees and employees paid subminimum wages, and for day and temporary labor service agencies.

Final Payments

Illinois requires that final paychecks be paid on the next scheduled payday but does not have specific rules on how to send a final paycheck, so the final paycheck can be paid via direct deposit (if an employee previously authorized direct deposit for wages), or by check or payroll paycard, either in-person or mailed. The final paycheck should contain the employee's regular wages from the most recent pay period, plus other types of compensation such as commissions, bonuses, and accrued sick and vacation pay. Employers can withhold money from the employee's last paycheck if the employee owes the organization. 820 ILCS 115/5

Unemployment Insurance

Illinois unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own that meet Illinois' eligibility requirements. To be eligible for this benefit program, you must a resident of Illinois and meet all of the following:

  • Unemployed, and
  • Worked in Illinois during the past 12 months (this period may be longer in some cases), and
  • Earned a minimum amount of wages determined by Illinois guidelines, and
  • Actively seeking work each week you are collecting benefits.

Workers' Compensation

Illinois workers' compensation law requires employers to purchase insurance that covers work-related injuries and occupational diseases regardless of fault; but it can also prohibit an employee from filing a lawsuit against the employer. Employers with one or more employees are required to obtain & post notice of workers' compensation insurance (with limited exceptions) (Ch. 820, Sec.305/1). Some type of benefits include:

  • Medical care: care reasonably required to cure or relieve employee of effects of the injury (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8(a))
  • Temporary total disability: compensate worker totally disabled from work for a temporary period of time (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8(b))
  • Temporary partial disability: benefits while employee is recovering from injury but working light duty for less compensation (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8(a))
  • Permanent partial disability: compensate for permanent damage even if employee returns to work (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8.1b)
  • Permanent total disability: compensate employee rendered permanently unable to work (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8(f) & (g))
  • Death benefits: for surviving family members if employee dies from work-related injury or disease (Ch. 820, Sec. 305/8(b) & (g))

Child Labor

The Illinois Child Labor Law regulates the employment of workers under the age of 16 and prohibits most work by children under the age of 14. The Illinois Department of Labor (the Department) through its Fair Labor Standards Division administers and enforces the Child Labor Law. Minors who are authorized to work in Illinois are subject to restrictions on when they can work and how many hours they can work. The exact restrictions in effect depend on the age of the minor and are designed to ensure that work does not interfere with the minor's schooling. 820 ILCS 205/18.2.

Gun Laws

Both federal and state gun laws apply in Illinois. Federal laws, such as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the National Firearms Act, largely determine the legality of various firearm types. State gun laws, on the other hand, tend to regulate who can purchase or possess firearms, how they may do so and firearm possession locations.

In Illinois, gun control laws:

  • Prohibit the sale, use or possession of certain weapons outright, including fully automatic machine guns, armor-piercing bullets and silencers.
  • Impose a three-day (72 hours) waiting period for prospective gun buyers.
  • Require buyers and users to meet certain eligibility criteria for gun ownership.
  • Add strict penalties for illegally possessing guns in specific locations, such as schools.

Illinois Statutes Criminal Offense, Chapter 720, Section 5/24.1 through 5/24.3. Illinois Statutes, Public Safety, Chapter 430, Sections 65 through 67

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Disclaimer: These materials do not constitute
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Guide last updated July 2021.

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