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In a unanimous vote, Chicago’s City Council recently passed an ordinance that will mandate practically all employers within city limits to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to its employees. In doing so, Chicago has joined the ranks of other cities such as New York and San Francisco in this growing trend of adopting legislation aimed at increasing worker benefits. Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Oregon have also enacted similar legislation. Cook County is expected to approve a similar ordinance later this year.

The new ordinance, which is slated to become effective July 1, 2017, applies to all employees who work 80 or more hours within a 120 day period – covering almost anyone collecting a paycheck, and disregarding the number of workers employed by the employer.

Under this new ordinance:

- covered employees have the right to accrue and use up to 40 hours of sick time over the course of one year;

- workers will earn paid sick leave at a minimum rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked - there are no fractional accruals. Employees exempt from overtime requirements shall be assumed to work 40 hours per week for accrual purposes;

- employers must allow a worker the right to roll over 20 hours of unused sick leave to the following year;

- employers subject to FMLA shall allow covered employees, at the end of his or her 12 month paid sick leave accrual period, to carry over up to 40 hours of unused accrued paid sick leave, in addition to the 20 hours noted above, to use exclusively for FMLA eligible purposes;

- the benefits must begin to accrue as of the first calendar day after the commencement of the covered employee’s employment;

- employers can cap the number of hours accrued per twelve month period at 40 hours if they so choose;

- employers may restrict new employees from using the accrued sick time until the employee completes 6 full months of continuous employment;

- employers would not be required to pay out unused sick days;

- employees must be allowed to use the sick leave to receive medical care, to care for themselves or their family when sick, if the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse, and if their child’s school is closed for public health reasons;

- employers that offer combined leave benefits such as Paid Time Off are exempt as long as employees could accrue and use up to 40 hours of PTO within one year;

- sick leave benefits that are negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement are exempt;

- employers are required to post in a conspicuous place, at each facility where a covered employee works, a notice advising the employee of his or her rights to paid sick leave. In addition, employers are required to provide this same notice to employees with their first paycheck;

- If the need for paid sick leave is reasonably, an employer may require seven days’ notice. If paid sick leave is not foreseeable, the employer may require notice as soon as is practicable; and

- Where a covered employee is absent for more than three consecutive work days, the employer may require certification that the use of paid sick leave was authorized under the Ordinance.

According to the Working Families Task Force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to investigate work related issues in Chicago, the proposed framework will lead to a less than 1.5 percent increase in labor costs for most employers and will expand paid sick leave benefits to more than 460,000 Chicago workers.

This movement in worker protection has seen more than twenty cities, five states and one county pass sick leave laws over the past several years. However, it hasn’t been without a fight. Some States are pushing back and have enacted laws preventing cities from passing earned sick time ordinances. With that in mind, employers should be aware of this growing trend and make efforts to ensure that they are up to date on the ever changing requirements imposed upon them. If they do not, it could prove costly as the Ordinance allows for a private cause of action with recovery of three times the amount of sick pay denied or lost, plus interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.

If you have questions about this development or other employment-related questions, please contact Christopher J. Carlos via email or by phone at 312-984-6657.

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Related reading:

Department of Labor's New Overtime Rules Require Review and Action

Drafting a Leave Policy - Easier Said than Done

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