The Case Law Firm recently won an important victory regarding the retroactive application of amendments to an Illinois state statute. In Brandl v. Superior Air Ground Ambulance Services, Inc., Case No. 09-CV-06019, a jury awarded our client payment for hours of accrued vacation time for which the Defendant had refused to pay at the time of her termination in violation of the Illinois Wage Payment & Collection Act (IWPCA).

Almost two years after her termination, but prior to the jury issuing its verdict in our client’s favor, the Illinois legislature amended the IWPCA to provide additional remedies to employees whose rights had been violated.  In part, these amendments provided that an employer must pay an additional two percent of the total wages unlawfully withheld for every month that amount is due and owing as a penalty for violations of the Act.

We sought that two percent penalty as an additional remedy for our client at the time of her victory on her IWPCA claim.  However, the Defendant argued that because 1) the amendment creating the two percent penalty had not yet been enacted at the time of the unlawful conduct, and 2) the amendment was silent as to whether it should be applied retroactively, it did not apply to our client’s claim.

The Case Law Firm argued that where a statutory amendment revises the remedies available to a plaintiff (as opposed to changing the definition of unlawful conduct or any party’s substantive obligations under the Act), that amendment must be applied retroactively to conduct which occurred prior to the amendment.  Relying in part on the arguments and citations set forth in our brief, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois agreed.

This decision is the first time a court has addressed the retroactivity of the 2011 IWPCA amendments.  Because the amendments also provide attorney’s fees for an employee who prevails under the Act, this decision could have an important impact on an employee’s ability to pursue her claims.