What You Need To Know About Illinois’ Right-To-Work Laws

Illinois does not have any right-to-work laws. Here’s what you need to know about Illinois’ right-to-work laws.

Federal and state laws outline right-to-work regulations for employees. Illinois is currently attempting to pass an amendment to its state constitution prohibiting the passage of any right-to-work laws.

What Are Right-to-Work Laws?

Right-to-work laws outline that employers cannot require employees to join a labor union or pay union membership fees to obtain or maintain employment. Right-to-work laws allow workers to decide whether or not to join a union.

Federal Right-to-Work Laws

Several Supreme Court decisions and federal laws regulate employees’ right to work. However, states can also impose restrictions and regulations surrounding right-to-work laws as long as they abide by federal laws.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) outlines federal right-to-work laws. Under the NLRA, it is illegal for employers to threaten employees who join or form a union and promise benefits to employees who refuse to join a union. Regardless of the state’s right-to-work laws, the state must enforce the NRLA.

The Taft-Hartley Act is another federal right-to-work law enacted in 1947. Taft-Hartley prohibits employers from only hiring union members. If most employees agreed, unionized businesses could require non-union employees to join a union within a specified time period.

In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees that states and public-sector unions cannot require government employees to pay agency or union membership fees. All states must uphold this ruling for public sector employees.

Illinois Right-to-Work Laws

As of 2022, 28 states and Guam have or enforce right-to-work laws within their jurisdiction. These states allow labor unions to operate but prohibit them from requiring workers to join them. Illinois currently has not passed any right-to-work laws.

Related: What to Ask for in an Employment Discrimination Settlement

Since Illinois has no active right-to-work laws, employers can require non-public sector employees to join a union and pay membership fees to keep their job. The employer has the discretion to impose such regulations and requirements.

Illinois legislature is currently attempting to pass the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which prohibits right-to-work laws. Under this Amendment, Illinois would not pass any laws that interfere with an employee’s right to collectively bargain or organize over terms of employment (wages, hours, and workplace safety).

The Workers’ Rights Amendment has passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate. In November 2022, Illinois voters may vote on whether to add this amendment to the Illinois state constitution.

However, in an attempt to block the Workers’ Rights Amendment from the November ballot, several non-profits in Illinois have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this amendment. If the non-profits win this lawsuit, the Illinois legislature will not add this amendment to the ballot.

At-Will Employment Laws in Illinois

Illinois is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without any reason or cause. However, there are two exceptions to this.
Employers cannot violate any provisions outlined in an employee’s contract or a labor union agreement. If the contracts require an employer to show cause, then an employer must do so.

Related: Access to Personnel Files in Illinois
Employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee based on a protected characteristic.
A protected characteristic includes:

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • National origin,
  • Ancestry,
  • Citizenship status,
  • Age,
  • Marital status,
  • Physical or mental handicap, and
  • Military service or unfavorable military discharge.

Illinois’ at-will employment laws do not require the employee or the employer to provide notice of termination of employment. The lack of this requirement is again contingent on an employee’s contract provisions.

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