Immigrant workers in Illinois could soon see more protections in the workplace. Democratic state lawmakers, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and workers’ rights groups are pushing for the Work Without Fear Act in Springfield.
The law would protect employees from immigration-related threats when reporting labor violations like wage theft, discrimination and unsafe working conditions. It would also give the attorney general the power to investigate and fine employers who make immigration-status threats against workers.
State Rep. Lilian Jimenez is sponsoring the bill. She said many workers, especially immigrant workers, in Illinois are often afraid to report abuse from their employers because of a fear of retaliation.
“What this protection would do is actually have the Department of Labor and the attorney general, which are agencies here in the state of Illinois which many workers are familiar with, they will be able to actually enforce these retaliation provisions,” Jimenez said.
Ugo Okere is the policy director for Raise the Floor Alliance, a workers’ rights group based in Chicago. He said that at the federal level, there are protections in place to help workers when it comes to sexual harassment and intimidation based on immigration status — but not at the state level.
“That’s why it’s so important to have this very specific and clear definition of retaliatory practices and also very clear ways for employees to claim rights under the law,” Okere said.
The bill is currently pending in the state House.