Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: A Narrow Amendment With Broad Implications

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

The Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance took effect in July 2017. The language of each ordinance largely mirrors the other, and where an employer falls under the jurisdiction of both, the Cook County Interpretative and Procedural Rules provide that the Cook County Commission on Human Rights (the enforcement arm of Cook County) will defer to the jurisdiction of the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (the enforcement arm of the City of Chicago). Effective July 1, 2020, the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is amended in a significant way.

Prior to the July 1, 2020, amendment, the Chicago ordinance defined “employer” as an entity maintaining “a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the City” or “subject to one or more of the [City’s] license requirements.” In simple terms, if the employer had an employee working in Chicago but did not have a brick and mortar location or was not subject to the City’s licensing requirements, then the employer was not bound by the Chicago ordinance. As of July 1, 2020, this will no longer be the case. The 2020 amendment removes the business facility and licensing requirements, expanding the Chicago ordinance’s reach to any “person who gainfully employs at least one Employee.” An “employee” in turn is defined as “an individual that performs work for an employer in the capacity of an employee, as distinguished from a contractor.” In short, an employer is now on the hook even absent a physical location in the City.

The 2020 amendment also adds the following exclusions to the term “covered employee”: outside salespersons; members of a religious corporation or organization; students at, and employed by, an accredited Illinois college or university; individuals performing work for motor carriers who are subject to the requirements of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation with respect to qualifications and maximum hours of service or the State of Illinois; and certain camp counselors. Therefore, unless an employee falls under one of the above exclusions, the employee is covered and eligible for paid sick leave as provided by the Chicago ordinance if the employee has worked at least 2 hours in any 2-week period within the geographic boundaries of Chicago and worked at least 80 hours in any 120-day period.

The accrual, carryover, use, notice, and posting requirements in the 2017 Chicago ordinance remain the same. Employers are still required to post a notice on the premises of each Chicago location and provide a notice informing covered employees of their rights under the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance with their first paycheck. While the notice and posting requirements have not changed, the City of Chicago has modified the form notice.

The Cook County ordinance remains intact. Most Cook County municipalities opted out of the Cook County ordinance when it was originally passed. Since then, a few municipalities have opted back in, including the following: Northbrook, Wilmette, Glenview, Western Springs, and Lincolnwood. Employers may want to verify whether they have employees in any of the municipalities where the Cook County ordinance applies.

Practical Tips for Employers

Illinois employers may want to evaluate their current policies and practices regarding sick time, vacation time, paid time off, and leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that they are compliant with federal, state, and local law.

Employers should consider working with their third-party administrators to ensure all employees performing work in Chicago, and more broadly, in covered Cook County municipalities, are identified for purposes of tracking accrual and carryover hours. Employers with employees outside of Cook County may want to continue monitoring the proposed state legislation regarding paid sick leave.

In addition, employers should consider keeping administrative staff up to date on paid sick leave requirements and ensuring that all notice posting and recordkeeping requirements are met.

For employers with collective bargaining agreements in effect on July 1, 2017, neither the Chicago amendment nor the Cook County ordinance will affect the already agreed upon terms. Labor agreements negotiated after July 1, 2017, may waive minimum wage requirements under these ordinances, but only if the waiver is clear and unambiguous.

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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