New laws are oftentimes drafted to take effect at the beginning of the following year, and employment laws are no exception. On January 1, 2016, Chicagoans gained an increase in minimum wage, Illinoisans got an expansion of equal pay protections, and veterans received legislative leg-up in the workplace with the implementation of new Illinois employment laws.

First, the minimum wage for Chicago workers increased as of January 1 to $10.50.   This is the first step in a set of incremental increases passed by the City Council aimed at increasing minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2019. For tipped employees like waitresses and bartenders, the minimum wage increased from $5.45 to $5.95.

Second, the new year brought in the expansion of the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which was originally passed back in 2003, and which originally applied only to employers with four or more employees. Now, as of January 1, it applies to all employers, regardless of size.

Finally, January 1 welcomed the Veterans Preference in Private Employment Act (VPPEA), which allows Illinois employers to give preference to honorably discharged veterans and/or their widows or widowers in hiring or retention without such preference being a violation of other federal or state anti-discrimination laws. In order to assert a preference like this though, there are some prior steps an employer will have had to take. These include putting the employer’s preference policy into writing, and publishing it at the worksite or on the company website for employees and applicants to see.

Unfortunately, due to a Congress that cannot agree on anything—and certainly not anything as sensational as worker’s rights—there are no new federal laws to report. Fingers crossed that this changes later in the year.