Two new laws that labor unions and workers' rights groups fought valiantly to pass in the statehouse this past year went into effect this week. The first makes it illegal for Illinois employers to run credit checks on job applicants except in the fields of banking, insurance, and at some government agencies. Bad credit, the advocates argued correctly, is often the result of life circumstances, not poor character, and thus should not impede a person's search for a steady wage.
The other law raises fines for various wage-and-hour violations and gives the Illinois Department of Labor more power to prosecute employers accused of wage theft claims lower than $3,000 per employee. The regulations are welcome antidotes to a troubling trend; studies have shown that wage theft is rampant in low-wage industries across Illinois. Unfortunately, WBEZ's Chip Mitchell reports today that the Quinn administration has not yet submitted new enforcement rules to IDOL, which could delay implementation of portions of the new law. If the governor's office is serious about protecting workers in the new year, it will make these rules a priority.