NBC 5 Chicago: Illinois Workers Filing Wage Complaints Face Long Wait Times, Low Chances of Getting Checks

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

From NBC 5 Chicago:

Imagine going to work but not getting paid. NBC 5 Investigates has found an alarming number of workers in the private sector who claim their past or current employers are stealing their wages.

Thousands of complaints are being filed with the Illinois Department Labor from employees reporting they are either not being paid for hours worked, not receiving overtime compensation or earning less than the minimum wage.

Workers call it wage theft.

“It became a constant battle of just getting my tiny bit of money,” said Alexandra Lipman, a former Chicago restaurant manager who claims her hours drastically increased at her old job but her paychecks did not.

Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) statistics show 3,220 wage complaints were filed between 2014 and mid-2015, resulting in claims totaling $15,473,500 in lost or stolen wages. What’s more: experts who study wage theft said the damage could be much worse, as workers may be too afraid to report their lost or stolen wages for fear of losing their jobs.

“These are jobs that are sort of more hidden, more informal in some respects,” said Jacob Lesniewski of Dominican University. “I think there’s a lot of fear of retaliation.”

Noemi Hernandez said she remained at her job at a bridal store for months even though she was not earning the minimum wage. She said her former employer owes her $9,700.

“I needed the money. I needed to work and I found that to be stable,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez filed a complaint with the IDOL but said her employer eventually closed the business.

While the IDOL recovered nearly $3,000,000 in unpaid vs. lost wages for workers in fiscal year 2014, workers who file wage claims could face a time-consuming process with just a 32% success rate.

According to IDOL data based on complaints filed in 2014 and 2015, the average worker in Illinois waited 162 days – nearly five and a half months – for the IDOL to resolve his or her claim for lost wages. And out of the 3,220 claims filed, less than one-third of the workers won their case and received a check.

NBC 5 Investigates also found 144 cases where workers had to wait more than one year for the IDOL to get them the lost wages they were due.

Read the full article from NBC 5 Chicago.