Corporate Officer Liability Under The Illinois Wage Payment And Collection Act

The Illinois’ Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (the “Act”) provides some strong recourse to an employee who isn’t paid by his employer.

Not only can a corporate employer be liable to the employee claimant, but so can individual corporate officers in some cases. See Act, ss. 2, 13.  In addition, Act Section 14 outlaws retaliation against an employee who makes a claims under the Act.

Section 5 of the Act requires an employer to pay a separated employee final compensation no later than the next regularly scheduled payday. 

The Act defines “employer” variously as (1) any individual or business entity that acts directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee and (2) as an officer of a corporation or agents of an employer who knowingly permit the employer to violate the Act.   820 ILCS 115/2, 13.

Act Section 2 binds an employer not only for its own failure to pay employee wages but also for violations committed by its agents (i.e. supervisors).  

 Section 13 imposes personal liability on an officer or agent of an employer who knowingly permits an Act violation. 

Section 13 liability applies only to corporate “decision-makers” who occupy supervisory positions at a company and have a role in setting work policy and can dictate rate of pay and working conditions.

A corporate officer can defend a personal liability Act claim by asserting he relied on corporate financial documents in failing to pay or “shorting” an employee.

Section 14 is the Act’s anti-retaliation section.  It provides that an employee can recover damages where an employer “unlawfully retaliates” him. 820 ILCS 115/14(c). 

Unlawful retaliation means simply that an employer fired or discriminated against an employee who complained that he hasn’t been paid.

A claimant can show retaliation under the Act where he makes a demand for unpaid compensation and is fired in response. 

Afterwords: Collection and employment litigators should have a working knowledge of the various sections of the Act given its prevalence in the published case law.

 

 

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PaulP

Litigation attorney at Fisher Kanaris, P.C. representing businesses and individuals in all types of commercial disputes.