New bill would allow state to place a lien on business owners’ property for unpaid wage allegations

New bill would allow state to place a lien on business owners’ property for unpaid wage allegations

A bill in the Illinois House of Representatives would allow the Illinois Department of Labor to place a lien on a business owner's property should he or she fail to respond to an allegation of unpaid wages within five days.

Illinois’ business climate could soon get even less friendly for business owners, if a new bill in the Illinois House of Representatives becomes law.

House Bill 4324, introduced by state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, would allow for the possibility of a hold being placed on business owners’ property – both business and potentially personal – if an employee claims he or she is owed wages that were not paid. The employee would make such a claim with the Department of Labor, or DOL, against the employer, and the employer would have little time to respond if served notice.

HB 4324 provides “that a lien exists on an employer’s property for the amount of unpaid wages owed to an employee” if a business owner does not respond to a notice within five calendar days. Within those five days, business owners have two options: Ensure the “claimant is paid in full” or take “any other appropriate actions to resolve the matter under the circumstances.” The latter could require fighting the claim with legal action, a costly and time-consuming prospect.

For small business owners, such as Mike Monseur of Springfield, this could be particularly painful.

“This is why people won’t invest in this state,” said Monseur, who co-owns several Godfather’s Pizza locations in central Illinois. “Businesses are targets.”

“All [employees] have to do is make a claim and then you’re faced with attorney fees … Do you think people are going to want to invest in Illinois?”

Business owners in Illinois are already struggling with the some of the highest property taxes in the nation and an outdated, uncompetitive workers’ compensation system. This proposal would erect yet another hurdle for business owners, and would in turn hurt job seekers as businesses cut back on investment in the state.

Burdens from the state are on top of local taxes and regulations businesses have to navigate, too. Of concern for Monseur and other Springfield-area business owners is the possibility of a 2 percent dine-in tax – a policy that has already been implemented in Decatur and several Chicago suburbs despite disdain from restaurant owners and customers.

Illinoisans desperately need policies that will improve the state’s dismal jobs climate rather than scare away potential investment. Bills like HB 4324 do the latter.

“You don’t want to attack businesses and discourage them from investing in the community,” Monseur said. “And unfortunately our legislators are drafting legislation that make businesses the victim.

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