In December, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a new Ordinance requiring employers to provide employees with 40 hours of paid leave to be used for any reason. The Cook County Paid Leave Ordinance became effective on December 31, 2023 and applies to all employers with at least one employee in Cook County.
Some aspects of the Paid Leave Ordinance are still in flux, but its key elements are highlighted below:
Under the new Ordinance, employees accrue paid leave at the rate of one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked – up to 40 hours accrued in a year. Employees also can carry over any unused time from one year to the next.
Employers may frontload 40 hours of paid leave. If they choose this approach, they do not need to track accrual or allow for carryover of unused paid leave from one 12-month period to the next. For employers that choose this route, any of their employees’ unused paid leave would be forfeited.
Employers can require up to seven days’ notice of a paid leave request unless the need to use the paid leave is unforeseeable.
The Ordinance indicates that paid leave does not need to be paid out to employees upon separation of employment. However, employers must ensure compliance with the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act which may consider paid leave under the ordinance to be similar to vacation time that must be paid out upon separation.
For those employers that have a more generous paid leave policy than provided by the new Ordinance, they can continue to enforce their existing paid leave policy as long as the policy provides the employee with a minimum of 40 hours paid leave and allows the employee to take paid leave for any reason.
The Ordinance neither applies to employees in the construction industry who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, nor does it affect any CBA in force before January 1, 2024.
Employers should note that non-compliance will likely lead to lawsuits. Employees are not required to file administrative complaints prior to filing a lawsuit. Employees who prevail in court can recover damages equal to three times the amount of paid leave in question as well as interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.
The Paid Leave Ordinance largely follows the requirements of the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act. If your company has been preparing to comply with this Act, the new Ordinance will likely not bring too many surprises. Regardless, all employers should review their existing policies against the Ordinance’s requirements. If you have questions about how this development may impact your organization, please contact Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Christopher J. Carlos and Caroline K. Vickrey.