The Commission investigates and, if warranted, adjudicates violations of the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance. If you believe that you have been underpaid for work performed for an employer in Cook County, contact the Cook County Commission on Human Rights for an intake interview. Investigators for the Commission can be reached Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm by telephone, email or in-person (or outside of these hours by appointment). Due to the volume of intake interviews, initial consultations are limited to 30 minutes. Please consider reviewing and sending the Commission a Complaint Intake Worksheet in advance so that the investigator can best advise you as to whether your case is one that the Commission has the legal authority to investigate and help you evaluate the strength of your legal claim. The Minimum Wage Complaint Intake Worksheet is in the download section of this page.
If after your initial intake interview, the Commission believes that it has the legal authority to investigate your claim and that your legal claim is colorable, the Commission will help you prepare a written complaint. You may also prepare your own complaint or have an attorney prepare one for you. However, if you prepare your own complaint or your attorney prepares one for you, you must use the Commission's Complaint Form (see the form in this page's Downloads) or a substantial equivalent.
The complaint must contain a statement of the facts alleged to constitute a violation of the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance. For tips on preparing a viable complaint, review the memo on filing Minimum Wage Complaints from the Executive Director of the Commission in the Downloads section of this page. These allegations must be sent out in separately numbered paragraphs so that the alleged violator (respondent) can admit or deny each allegation. Your complaint must be signed, notarized and filed with Commission within 3 years of the date of the alleged violation. There is no charge or fee for filing a complaint.
Once you file a complaint with the Commission, the Commission may opt to proceed with the complaint in its own name. The Commission will tend to do this with cases that are supported by strong evidence and where it appears that many employees may have suffered the same or similar injuries.
The Commission notifies the respondent about the complaint and requires the respondent to submit a response admitting or denying each allegation of the complaint. The complaint is then assigned to an investigator who conducts a neutral fact-finding investigation that may include interviewing the parties and other witnesses, obtaining and reviewing documents and other physical evidence and submitting written questionnaires to you, the respondent and other witnesses. It is important that you cooperate with the investigator assigned to your matter and provide him or her with the information he or she requests at the time he or she requests it. Failure to cooperate is grounds for dismissal of your case. In addition, because investigators are working on a number of cases simultaneously, the Commission asks that once you have a complaint on file, that you make an appointment if you need to speak with your investigator about your case or want to provide him or her with additional information regarding the case. This ensures that each Commission complaint receives an investigator's undivided attention and reduces delays in the investigative process across the Commission's entire docket. At the end of the neutral fact-finding investigation, the Commission determines on the basis of the evidence whether a violation of the Cook County Minimum Ordinance has occurred.
Remedies and Relief
The Commission can order anyone who has violated the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance to pay back wages; to reinstate a wrongfully terminated complainant; to give a required notice or make a required posting; to disqualify a respondent from County benefits including licensing and property tax incentives; and to cease and desist violating the Ordinance. The Commission may also levy fines of $500.00 to $1,000.00 for each offense.
Examples of Minimum Wage Ordinance Violations
- Paying employees less than the applicable minimum wage.
- Confiscating gratuities of tipped employees.
- Charging employees bogus fees payable to the employer as a way of reducing their effective hourly rate of pay.
- Failing to notify employees of their rights under the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance.
- Firing an employee who is considering filing a Minimum Wage complaint or otherwise cooperating with a Commission investigation.