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Non-Resident May Recover Under Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act

  • March 1, 2004

A Michigan resident who worked in Illinois for an Illinois employer could recover unpaid wages under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, according to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Rejecting case law decided by the Illinois courts, the Seventh Circuit stated that its interpretation of the Wage Act promoted the law's purpose ? to protect employees in Illinois from "being stiffed" by their employers. Adams v. Great Lakes Bldg. Materials, Inc., (7th Cir. 2004).

In Adams, the employee worked for Great Lakes Building Materials in 2001 and 2002. Although he did substantial work for the company in Illinois, he was paid for approximately three weeks of work.  In addition to failing to pay the employee, the company fired him just before he was about to expose the owner's corruption. The employee sued the employer in federal court, claiming a violation of the Illinois Wage Act by failing to pay him. The trial court dismissed the claim because the employee was not an Illinois resident. The employee appealed.

The federal appeals court reviewed the Wage Act's language stating that it applies to "all employers and employees in Illinois." The court found that the employee's allegation that he worked in Illinois placed him within the class of workers to whom the Wage Act applied. Reversing the dismissal of the case by the trial court, the appeals court stated that its interpretation of the Wage Act was consistent with the statute's underlying purpose – protection of workers. 

Employers in Illinois should assume that the Wage Act applies to all employees performing work in Illinois, regardless of where the employee resides. 

©2004 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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