1. Calculate how much you are owed in unpaid wages
When working on a wage theft claim, you'll need to figure out how much you are owed. In order to calculate how much you are owed, use the following formula:
- (the Total amount you should have received) - (Amount you were paid) = (Total owed wages)
Determine what you were actually paid by multiplying your hourly rate by the number of hours that you worked. For example, if you worked a total of 100 hours at $5.00 per hour, you were paid a total of $500 (100 hours x $5 = $500).
Determine how much you were supposed to have been paid by multiplying the hours you worked by the appropriate minimum wage. If you worked 100 hours in Illinois when the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, you should have received $825 (100 hours x $8.25 = $825). Be sure to use the rate that was in effect at the time the wages were earned.
Finally, subtract the amount that you should have received the amount you actually received to determine the difference that you are owed. Using the examples above, you would be owed $325 in owed minimum wages ($825 - $500 = $325).
For answers to other questions about wage theft, visit the Illinois Department of Labor FAQ
2. Speak directly with your employer
If you feel comfortable, you can speak directly with your employer to try and recover your owed wages. Often this is the fastest way to receive your owed wages, particularly if it was the result of a mistake. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for asking about owed wages.
3. File a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor
The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) looks into whether or not employers are paying employees enough money. You can file a complaint to ask IDOL to look into your case.
You have one year from when you last worked for your employer, or one year from when the unpaid wages are owed, whichever is later, to file your claim. There is no cost to file a claim, and you do not need a lawyer.
To file a claim with IDOL fill out a Wage Claim Application.
You should include copies (do not send originals) of any evidence you have which you think might show that you are owed wages with your application. For example, you might have paychecks or time cards that show you received less than the mandatory minimum hourly wage or salary. If you do not have any documents, remember it is your employer's responsibility to keep all your pay and time records.
You can either email, mail or drop-off two copies of your complete application to:
Illinois Department of Labor
Fair Labor Standards Division
Compliance Processing Section
160 N. LaSalle Ave, Suite C-1300
Chicago, IL 60601-3150
Send a PDF of the form via email to DOL.WAGES@illinois.gov
If your address or telephone number changes, make sure to contact the Illinois Department of Labor so they can change it on your claim.
Also, remember that the Department of Labor can only investigate the three years before the date that you file your claim.
4. File a lawsuit on your own
When you file your own lawsuit, the court will charge you a fee. If you cannot afford this fee, you can ask the court to let you file without paying it. See Filing court papers for free for more information.
In filing your unpaid wages complaint with the court, you should include:
- Who you worked for;
- What type of work you performed;
- Where you worked;
- When you worked there;
- How many hours you worked each week; and
- What you were paid each week.
If you have any evidence of these facts, you should include them in your complaint. For example, a copy of pay stub which shows a minimum wage violation might be helpful to prove that you are owed minimum wages.
Remember, even if you do not have any documents it is the employer's responsibility to keep all your pay and time records.
Lawsuits for $10,000 or less are known as small claims. The rules for small claims are easier to follow, and the cases go more quickly than for lawsuits for more money. Learn more about Suing someone for $10,000 or less.
If you are owed more than $10,000, you cannot sue in small claims court.
Updated: March 2018