CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of people who won wage claims against their employers in Illinois never got the money they were owed. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory dug into a key area in the Illinois Department of Labor that just isn’t working.
An interview with Department of Labor director of fair labor standards Marina Faz-Huppert got frustrating for both sides. She referred some questions to the department’s communications director, even though she acknowledged she should know about the issues because they’re under her purview.
Faz-Huppert wanted to discuss a new program she’s spearheading where mediators try to resolve labor cases involving an employee who claims an employer didn’t properly pay up.
“We provide a free voluntary safe space to work through that issue,” she said.
She said it’s an alternative to costly labor investigations and administrative hearings.
“Being able to host a session where you have two parties that are willing to resolve the issue saves time, money, staff resources that could otherwise be put towards an investigation,” Faz-Huppert said.
What the program doesn’t do is address a problem CBS 2 uncovered by combing through the department’s data. Of 458 people who won a wage claim against employers in the past two years, 75% have yet to be paid what the state says they owe.
One person is waiting on $103,000. Another case shows nearly $20,000 in limbo for a year and a half. Another worker has been out $67,000 since September 2018.
In total, over the past two years, workers have won more than $2 million in claims that remain unpaid.
Faz-Huppert acknowledged the frustration workers must face winning a claim but still not getting paid by their employer.
“I think that’s part of one of the things I’m trying to do, is I’m trying to look at where, what the needs are, and where the challenges are, what the experiences are for people who file claims with our office to help them,” she said. “We have a lot more to do and improve on.”
One need appears to be following up with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Nearly 100 unpaid claims are awaiting enforcement by his office.
CBS 2 gave the attorney general a month to figure out a time for an interview, but unlike Faz-Huppert, Raoul’s office didn’t take the opportunity to be held accountable.
It’s not just employees losing out, taxpayers are.
As part of the wage claim process, bosses who lose their cases are required to pay an administrative fee to the state, but the state has not collected approximately $150,000 in fees owed by employers.