by Steven L. Brenneman
Most employers in Chicago and Cook County will be required to offer paid sick leave beginning July 1. The city of Chicago passed a sick leave ordinance last summer, and Cook County (where Chicago is located) passed a nearly identical law in October. The ordinances apply to all businesses that are located in the city or county or are subject to city licensing requirements (except for employers in the construction industry).
The laws require employers, regardless of size, to provide all employees who work at least 80 hours in a 120-day period with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours of leave per year. Employees are allowed to carry half of their unused accrued paid sick leave (up to 20 hours) to the next year. In addition, employers that are subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must allow FMLA-eligible employees to carry over up to 40 additional hours of accrued paid sick leave to use exclusively for FMLA-qualifying purposes.
Employees may begin using paid sick leave no later than the 180th calendar day following the commencement of employment. Leave may be used:
- For an employee’s illness or injury;
- For the illness or injury of an employee’s family member;
- For appointments to receive medical care, treatment, or diagnosis or preventive care;
- When an employee or an employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence or a sexual offense; and
- When an employee’s place of business or an employee’s child’s school or care facility is closed because of a public health emergency.
Employers are required to compensate employees at the same rate and with the same benefits, including healthcare benefits, they regularly earn during work hours. However, employees are not entitled to payment or reimbursement for unused leave when they separate from employment. A special rule for tipped employees provides that the value of paid sick leave must be at least equal to the full minimum wage.
The ordinances allow employers to require employees to provide up to seven days’ notice before taking leave if the need for leave is reasonably foreseeable. Otherwise, notice is required “as soon as is practicable on the day” employees intend to take paid sick leave. The laws allow employers to obtain written certification from employees absent for more than three consecutive workdays to confirm that paid sick leave is being used for proper purposes.
Employers with union employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) won’t be covered by the ordinances until the agreement expires. Even then, future CBAs may waive the requirements of the ordinances.