While politicians in Springfield continue fighting over Illinois’ new minimum wage requirements, the Chicago’s City Council recently approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $13.00 per hour by 2019.

In an overwhelming 44 to 5 vote, the City Council’s members approved the following gradual increase in minimum wages payable to employees within the city’s boundaries:

  • 7/1/15   $10.00
  • 7/1/16   $10.50
  • 7/1/17   $11.00
  • 7/1/18   $12.00
  • 7/1/19   $13.00

Thereafter, the employees’ minimum wages will be adjusted for inflation every July 1, unless the unemployment rate is above 8.5%.

With a few exceptions, the new ordinance follows the current Illinois state law on the definitions of employees, gratuities, and exceptions. The new ordinance permits an employer and a union to waive the protections offered by the ordinance through a collective bargaining agreement by clear and unambiguous terms.

The new ordinance provides for steep civil penalties of $500 to $1,000 per offense and provides for a private right of action to recover treble damages (triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages) plus litigation costs and fees. Such damages shall serve as a strong deterrent to Chicago-based employers not only to pay their employees’ wages but also to ensure that their independent contractors are properly classified and paid on time. (The current state law only permits recovery of underpayment and interest of 1.5% per month until collected, plus costs and fees.)

The new ordinance may still be challenged or preempted by the state legislature. Yet, the adopted rate increases and subsequent inflationary adjustment should serve as an indicator of things to come from Springfield once the legislature finally acts on the state minimum wage.