Illinois Equal Pay Act amendment extends protections to African Americans

CARBONDALE, IL — Illinois is ringing in the new year with new state laws. An amendment to an existing law will make it illegal for employers to discriminate against African Americans by paying them lower wages.

That change has Carbondale NAACP President Linda Flowers saying it’s about time.

“We are still fighting the same old fight that our forefathers fought. The long history of discrimination in terms of employment opportunities and equal salaries has a big impact on families” said Flowers.

The Center for Empowerment and Justice in Carbondale is an organization that seeks to better the community and empower people who live there. Outreach Coordinator Penny Smith said wage discrimination is an injustice that cannot be ignored.

“Some people don’t have to think about it. They don’t think about it unless it’s brought to their attention. I’m glad it’s being brought to their attention. It’s very unfortunate this hasn’t already changed,” said Smith.

Flowers said the amendment is a good first step, but she still has a lot of questions.

“How is it going to be enforced? If after all these years beyond slavery, we haven’t already made sure that people who are doing the same job are getting paid the same rate,” Flowers said. She said.

She said “there wouldn’t be that big disparity we have right now,” if more had been done.

The law will amend the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which originally became law in 2003. The amendment will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.