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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 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 originally added 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. However, the City Council passed a last-minute revision to the 2020 amendment, attributing the change to a “scrivener’s error” that mistakenly removed employee groups previously covered by the Chicago ordinance. The amendment now explicitly includes all of the above categories as covered employees (with the exception of certain camp counselors who remain excluded). Therefore, with limited exceptions, an employee is 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 the City 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. The City has published a modified form notice as well as updated paid sick leave rules providing greater detail on the individual and posting notice requirements.

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 the City of 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.


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Leaves of Absence/Reasonable Accommodation

Managing leaves and reasonably accommodating employees can be complex, frustrating, and expose employers to legal peril. Employers must navigate a bewildering array of state and federal statutes, with seemingly contradictory mandates.

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