Get Well Soon! Complying with the Chicago and Cook County Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

If you’re a Chicagoland employer who provides employees only vacation time (or no paid time at all) to cover absences when family health and emergency situations strike, come July 1, 2017 you may be breaking the law. What to do? Call your employment lawyer in the morning and follow her prescription. Here’s what to discuss during your office visit.

What Happens on July 1, 2017?

For the first time ever, many Chicago area employers will be required to provide paid leave for certain health and family-related absences. Under Chicago and Cook County ordinances going into effect July 1, certain covered employees will have the right to start accruing 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work (up to 40 hour a year), and the added right to carry over some of that time from year to year. Employers will also be required to notify employees of their right to such leave, and to not punish employees who use it.

“Paid Sick Leave” Covers More than Sick Time

Take note, the ordinances do more than mandate sick time. They entitle workers of covered employers to paid time off to cover a wide range of family health and emergency situations, such as:

  • An employee’s medical care, treatment or diagnosis of an illness or injury (including preventive care, like an annual physical); or
  • Similar medical care for an employee’s family members; or
  • Certain purposes if the employee or family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or
  • Closure of an employee’s place of business, a child’s school, or place of care due to a health emergency.

These ordinances complement and expand leave rights previously reserved only to workers of much larger employers, and mirror rights similarly granted to workers in other major US cities, such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

Your Existing Vacation or PTO Policies May Not Make the Grade

It’s important for employers to understand their existing vacation/ PTO policies might not comply with the ordinances or other recently enacted sick leave laws.

While the ordinances indicate that employers with existing PTO and vacation policies may not need to provide additional paid leave, they also emphasize that such policies must grant paid time off in a manner that meets all the ordinances’ requirements. Importantly, both ordinances impose strict rules around accrual, notice, leave approval, certification and carryover procedures. For example, the ordinances direct that paid sick leave accrue in hourly increments – a requirement that may conflict with existing fractional PTO accrual practices.

Employers may also need to reconcile their policies with other new federal and state sick leave laws. On January 1, 2017, Executive Order 13706 went into effect, entitling employees of certain federal contractors and subcontractors to paid sick leave. At the same time, the Illinois Employee Paid Sick Leave Act also became effective, requiring certain Illinois employers to extend existing paid sick leave benefits to absences for other defined family purposes. Both laws include their own requirements, some of which may conflict with the ordinances.

Employers wanting to stay “healthy” would be wise to seek a lawyer’s help to harmonize their vacation / PTO policies with the entire web of new paid sick leave laws.

Media Coverage Will Spotlight Other Leave Rights

Predictably, the expected upcoming renewed media focus on the ordinances likely will also inform employees of other leave laws their employers might not already be aware of.

As examples, certain Illinois employers are already required to grant workers leave for various other reasons, including for disabilities, workplace injuries, pregnancy, domestic violence, blood donations, jury duty, crime victim/witness reporting, school visitation and voting.

Ahead of this press blitz, employers should also review with their employment lawyer what other leave entitlements apply to their workforce.

Call a Chicago Employment Law Attorney

Savine Employment Law, Ltd. represents Chicago and Illinois employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. Our starting point is a preventive approach – we first aim to ensure our clients comply with the law and avoid employee disputes. When disputes arise, we look for peaceful paths to resolution that service the business’s goals. When lawsuits result, we defend our clients aggressively and creatively. Call Savine Employment Law, Ltd. today for a Chicago employment lawyer.