Chicago Amends and Clarifies Its COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance

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Seyfarth Synopsis: We previously wrote about Chicago’s COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance here, which protects Chicago employees who remain at home for complying with public health orders or for other COVID-19 related reasons. The Chicago Ordinance was, however, recently amended and FAQs were issued that clarify a significant change.

Employer Obligations Under the Amended Ordinance

Prior to its recent amendment, Chicago’s Anti-Retaliation Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), provided that employers could not demote or terminate a covered employee who remains at home for complying with public health orders or for other COVID-19 related reasons (the reasons for which remain unchanged since our previous alert).

However, the Amended Ordinance (effective July 1, 2020) now provides that employers are prohibited from taking any adverse action against employees, not limited to termination and demotion.  And the FAQs now make clear that retaliation includes “being unjustly fired or let-go, unjustly denied a promotion, unjust negative evaluations, punitive schedule changes, punitive decreases in the desirability of work assignments, and other kinds of harassment as a result of the worker’s obeying a COVID-19 related order.”

What This Means For Employers

While this change may seem minor in scope, employers with employees performing work within the Chicago city limits need to be cautious, not only when making termination and demotion decisions, but also when making virtually any employment decision that could be considered an adverse action regarding a covered employee who stayed at home to obey a public health order or for reasons related to COVID-19.

Chicago employers should again review their processes and policies for addressing COVID-19 related absences and keep this ordinance in mind when making any employment decisions regarding Covered Employees.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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