construction worker

The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (IPWA) has undergone a substantial transformation following a recent amendment signed into law by Governor Pritzker. This pivotal change reshapes the rights and obligations of workers and employers in Illinois, particularly in the construction industry, introducing new avenues for legal action over wage discrepancies and setting a new precedent in employment law.

Overview of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act

The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act is a cornerstone of the state’s labor law, designed to ensure fair wages for workers on public construction projects. It mandates that laborers, mechanics, and other workers employed on public works projects receive wages comparable to the local prevailing rates for similar work. This act serves as a safeguard against underpayment and exploitation in the construction industry, aligning compensation with regional standards. The IPWA’s provisions are crucial in maintaining a level playing field, fostering fair competition among contractors, and upholding the economic well-being of Illinois’ workforce.

Key Changes in the Amended IPWA

The recent amendment to the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act introduced by HB 3491 marks a significant shift in protecting workers’ wage rights. It grants laborers, mechanics, and other construction workers the right to sue their employers, including both general contractors and lower-tier subcontractors, for any discrepancies between their paid wages and the prevailing wage rates. This legislative change, effective January 1, 2024, empowers workers to file private lawsuits against employers who fail to pay the mandated prevailing wage, regardless of whether the employer knowingly or unknowingly violated the act. This amendment is a direct response to the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, LLC, which highlighted the need for clearer legal provisions to protect workers from prevailing wage violations.

The Valerio Case and Its Implications

The Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, LLC case, a significant legal precedent in Illinois, involved employees suing their employer for not paying the prevailing wage. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of this lawsuit, citing the employer’s lack of clear notice regarding the applicability of the IPWA. This decision underscored a critical loophole in the IPWA, leading to the recent legislative amendment. The amendment addresses this gap by allowing workers to sue regardless of the employer’s awareness, significantly impacting future wage-related disputes.

Impact on Employers and Contractors

The amendment to the IPWA brings new responsibilities and potential liabilities for employers and contractors in Illinois. They must now be more vigilant in complying with the prevailing wage mandates, even in cases where they are not explicitly notified that the IPWA applies to their project. The heightened risk of civil lawsuits for wage discrepancies emphasizes the need for employers to thoroughly understand and apply the IPWA requirements.

What This Means for Workers

For workers in Illinois, the amended IPWA represents a significant enhancement of their legal protections and rights. It empowers them to pursue legal action against employers who fail to pay the prevailing wage, regardless of the employer’s knowledge of the IPWA’s applicability. This change levels the playing field, ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their labor on public works projects. It also simplifies the process for workers to claim the wage difference they are rightfully owed, encouraging a more equitable and just working environment in the construction industry.

Get Help from an Experienced Prevailing Wage Attorney

The amended Illinois Prevailing Wage Act marks a crucial step forward in protecting the rights of workers in the state. If you have concerns or questions about how these changes affect you, our experienced legal team at the Lore Law Firm is here to provide guidance and support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us through our free and confidential online client intake form for legal advice and representation in navigating these new legal waters.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.