Many Illinois Companies Will Soon Be Required to List Pay Scales, Benefits in Job Postings

Illinois State Capitol. (WTTW News)Illinois State Capitol. (WTTW News)

By the end of Tuesday — more than three months into the year — the average American woman will have at last earned what the average U.S. man earned by the end of 2023, a salary lag that has led March 12 to be recognized as Equal Pay Day.

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Illinois has laws to protect against this form of discrimination.

Employers with four or more employees cannot pay men and women unequal wages for doing the same work, though factors like seniority, merit and measurable productivity don’t count.

Still, it can be difficult for workers to know whether there’s a pay discrepancy.

That may be easier to figure out starting next year. A law (Public Act 103-0539) that takes effect in January is intended to level the playing field, by requiring companies with a minimum of 15 employees to be upfront about what jobs will pay.

“This is about building women’s confidence,” Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said. “Yes, it is about money. Yes, it is about policy and implementation of policy. But it’s also the fact that from being young girls, we are often not given the information that will help us make these decisions. We are still getting messages that we don’t belong at every table where decisions are being made. We need to continue to build our confidence. Transparency helps build confidence, and that’s going to help us to get to our goal.”

Discover Financial Services, which has corporate offices in Chicago, is getting a head start.

Discover’s director of social impact and financial inclusion Moji Akinde said that sharing a salary range empowers candidates to make the right decisions about their financial futures.

“When we consider the type of biases that women often face when we’re trying to just even understand what the salary expectation for roles are or understand what we should ask for, when we come in too low, the perception is, ‘Well, we don’t know our worth,’ or, ‘It’s imposter syndrome,’ or ‘We’re not understanding the level of leadership for the role,’” Akinde said. “Whereas if we come in too high, it becomes, ‘Well, you’ve been too aggressive,’ or, ‘You’ll be non-realistic.’” 

Going into negotiations with salary information not only helps women candidates, but also provides a benefit to the company by attracting more talent, Akinde said during an online seminar Tuesday organized by the Equal Pay Chicago Coalition.

Illinois’ law mandates that starting in 2025, companies with 15 or more employees provide the pay scale and benefits for specific job postings.

When Democrats passed the plan last spring, it was against the protestations of business groups like the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and the Technology and Manufacturing Organization, though other powerful business organizations like the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association were neutral.

The law also sets requirements for sharing openings within companies, with a mandate that employers have to “make known all opportunities for promotion to all current employees” within 14 days of publicly posting the job.

The law covers jobs that are physically based in Illinois, or jobs in which an employee reports to an Illinois-based supervisor.

Companies that fail to follow the guidelines get a two-week “cure period” to fix the problem if someone files a complaint. If not remedied in time, companies could be subject to a fine of $500. If it happens again, the “cure period” is cut in half and the Illinois Department of Labor can levy a fine of up to $2,500. A third strike carries a penalty up to $10,000. 

Under existing law, an employer is free to ask an applicant about salary expectations, but cannot require a candidate to share their prior compensation history.

Just because a candidate or employee doesn’t get paid at the top of a salary range doesn’t mean they’re being “shorted or cheated,” Akinde said — something that she noted will be incumbent on human resource departments to explain as companies come into compliance with Illinois’ law.

Even with “equal pay, equal work,” some people will make more due to factors like an advanced degree or more experience, said Katrina Johnson Jones, who does human resources for BMO Harris.

“A lot of those things do play a factor,” Johnson Jones said. “It’s just all about making sure that a proper due diligence is done across the board.”

Being upfront about compensation information can also save both sides time, Johnson Jones said.

“When a company posts their salary ranges, a candidate will feel some form of trust,” Johnson Jones said. “The … candidate will actually know if they qualify for the role.”

She said being transparent makes the company more credible.

Cristina Pacione Zayas, a top deputy of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, said being upfront about salary expectations is especially important in a post-pandemic world that left a lot of people reflective about their needs and realities.

“Having this information on the front end saves both sides time and money, because you don’t want to go through an entire process only to find out that it does not meet your salary expectations as the seeker,” Pacione Zayas said. “And then the fact that the employer spent all this time going through the various processes to then make an offer for it to be rejected.”

A salary is a huge factor for women seeking to be self-sufficient, she said.

“It’s connected to every single aspect of life,” Pacione Zayas said, be it a mom who needs to consider paying for child care or a person who needs to know whether a benefits package will cover the mental health or dental care they require. She acknowledged not everyone is in the position of privilege to be able to negotiate for those benefits.

Contact Amanda Vinicky: @AmandaVinicky | [email protected]

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