wage increase, Illinois legislature, Illinois Employment LawyerIn recent months, lawmakers in Illinois have begun a serious push for raising the state’s minimum wage by nearly three dollars over the next two years. As one of 29 states with a minimum wage above the $7.25 per hour required by federal law, the minimum wage in the state is $8.25 per hour. With public pressure mounting, however, members of the Illinois legislature have proposed plans which would increase minimum wage to $11.00 per hour by July 1, 2017.

Illinois residents also had the opportunity in November to express their opinion on Election Day by means of an advisory question on the general election ballot. The advisory measure was approved by a margin of more than two to one, with nearly 64% of voters expressing their support of raising the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour in 2015.

Senator Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, sponsored the proposal to bump the state’s minimum wage incrementally which was passed by the Illinois Senate in December. As the measure passed after the Illinois House had already adjourned, there was talk that outgoing Governor Pat Quinn may call a special session in order to accommodate a vote, but such action never materialized. Senator Lightford acknowledged that the plan may have a more difficult path through the House, before getting to the desk of newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner. Governor Rauner has indicated that he would support an increase on the condition that other business reforms are part of the plan.

While Illinois at large awaits the outcome of this ongoing process, Chicago City Council overwhelmingly approved a minimum wage increase of its own in December. The new measure increases the minimum wage within the city of Chicago to $10.00 per hour this year, with incremental increases up to $13.00 by 2019. More than 400,000 workers throughout the city are expected to see a benefit from the increase.

It is uncertain as of yet how two separate minimum wage rates will work within the state. There is some concern that higher labor costs may push businesses out of the city and that job growth may stagnate. Whatever the eventual outcome, it is important for small business owners to be aware of the changing labor environment and remain in compliance with all applicable minimum wage laws.

If you own a business in Illinois and have questions regarding minimum wage requirements, an experienced Illinois employment law attorney at the Miller Law Firm, P.C. can help. Contact our office today and put our experience to work for you.

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FLSA, Illinois Employment Lawyer, Employee RightsWhen most people think about the requirements of a full-time job, they typically envision the average eight hour day and a resulting 40-hour week. Recent economic trends, however, are quickly proving that image to be no longer true. In fact, a recent Gallup study suggests that half of all full-time workers in the United States work more than 40 hours per week, and almost 40 percent work 50 hours or more. While expectations for longer work days and weeks are becoming increasingly common in many jobs, there are indications that putting in all the overtime may not actually be worth it.

In 1926, Henry Ford was the first prominent American business owner to experiment with a new expectation for his employees. After years of research within his company and against the recommendations of his contemporaries, Ford made the drastic decision to increase his workers’ wages while reducing the length of a standard work day to eight hours. The years that followed for the Ford Motor Company were among the most successful of any company in the country’s history, and unsurprisingly, other business owners took notice, making similar changes within their own organizations.

By 1938, the first version of the Fair Labor Standards Act had been established, which included regulations regarding overtime and a 40-hour standard work week. Drawing lavish praise from President Franklin Roosevelt, the FLSA was welcomed by many as a necessary step in economic recovery following the Great Depression. The law was only applicable to about 20 percent of the nation’s work force, as it primarily addressed industrial related employment but it laid the groundwork for future labor laws and regulations designed to protect many more workers.

While the FLSA, in subsequent forms, has permitted unlimited paid overtime in most cases, as well as exemptions to paid overtime requirements, research has been mounting over the years that calls into the question the efficiency of longer hours. Repeated studies suggest that most workers can maintain high productivity for about eight hours per day, and increasing the hours worked did not result in an equivalent increase in output. There have been some findings, including a 1980 report by The Business Roundtable, which showed that brief stints of overtime to meet specific goals could produce short-term benefits, but only in specific situations and the increased productivity was not sustainable.

Despite the existing research, there has not been a widespread push back toward a 40-hour work week. Changing the mindset of workers and employers which has been established over several generations is a significant challenge. Employees would likely welcome shorter days and weeks but convincing business owners that less hours per week could increase overall efficiency is not going to happen quickly.

The increase of telecommuting and tech-related jobs has also added a level of flexibility to the modern work environment. For many, going to work no longer requires a daily commute or punching a clock. Known for providing stellar working conditions and unusual employee perks, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page observed, “Most people like working, but they’d also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests.”

If you are a business owner, understanding how overtime and long hours affect your employees’ efficiency is extremely important. Equally important is ensuring your expectations and compensation scale meet the requirements of the law. A qualified lawyer can help provide the answers you need regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act and other applicable labor statutes. Contact an experienced Illinois employment attorney at the Miller Law Firm, P.C. for a consultation today.

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independent contractors or employees, Illinois employment law attorneyFor a small business owner, one of the most important decisions he or she must make is how to acquire the help needed to run the company. An owner must choose between hiring employees, utilizing independent contractors, or some combination of both. It is very important to understand the difference between employees and independent contractors, as each classification carries with it different requirements and responsibilities.

According to labor and tax regulations, there is no single standard for determining employee or contractor status. There are, however, a number of factors which, when weighed together, may offer some clarification to an individual’s classification. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has divided the relevant considerations into three basic categories:

1. Behavioral Control

Employees typically have the details of their work controlled by an employer. They are directed how, when, and where to work, and may receive instructions on what resources are available to help them. They also may be provided with training on the manner in which the work is expected to be completed.

An independent contractor is likely to be allotted a great deal more freedom as to the specifics of completing assigned work. The final product is typically of more importance than following a particular method or work schedule.

2. Financial Control

Understanding who bears the responsibility for the monetary aspect of the work may also help determine if an individual is an employee. In most cases, employees are not expected to invest personally in a project, and incurred expenses are usually reimbursed by the employer. Additionally, personal profit or loss are not a concern for employees.

Independent contractors may be required to invest financially in their work, and often are not reimbursed for all expenses. Therefore, a contractor may be likely to realize a profit or absorb a loss to a much greater extent than an employee.

 3. Relationship of the Parties

Contracts and the offer of benefits also may be useful considerations to a worker’s status.  Health insurance, retirement investments, and vacation days are examples of benefits often made available to employees but rarely to independent contractors. In some cases, a written contract may be the only way to clearly indicate the relationship intended between the company and the individual. A contract often states, in clear language, whether the individual is an employee or an independent contractor.

Contractors or Employees at a Glance

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, independent contractors typically:

  • Use a separate business name and business accounts;
  • Have employees;
  • Advertise their business and keep business records;
  • Have multiple clients which are invoiced for completed work;
  • Maintain tools and resources; and
  • Set working hours independently.

Employees usually:

  • Work under the control and direction of others;
  • Receive training for job related activities;
  • Have a single employer and are paid regularly.

Independent contractors may seem attractive to a small business owner as the owner often realizes savings in labor costs, less liability, and increased flexibility in acquiring and limiting the working relationship. A business owner, however, must be sure that workers are classified correctly or risk serious financial and tax consequences.

If you own a business in Illinois and have questions about classifying your workers, contact the Miller Law Firm, P.C. today. An experienced employment attorney in Illinois will review your situation and help you protect your investment now and in the future.

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