Effective July 1, 2017, employers in Cook County, Illinois, will be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year to part-time and full-time employees. On October 5, 2016, the Cook County Board approved the Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, substantially expanding paid time off requirements for employers countywide. The ordinance closely mirrors the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which was approved earlier this year. With its approval, Cook County joins a growing number of U.S. cities, states, and counties with similar sick leave requirements.
The ordinance stipulates that any employee working at least 80 hours for an employer within any 120-day period qualifies for up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. New employees must wait 180 days from their start date to begin using paid sick leave, though they begin accruing time immediately. Employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, with the ability to accrue a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave in a 12-month period.
Employees are permitted to carry over up to 20 hours of unused paid sick leave from year to year, or 40 hours if the employer is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, if an employee is able to carry over 40 hours of paid sick leave, employers may require that these additional hours be used exclusively for FMLA purposes, such as the care of a newborn or serious illness. In either case, employers are not required to pay out any unused sick time when an employee leaves the company.
Employees may use this paid sick leave when: (1) The employee or a family member is sick, injured, or receiving medical care; (2) The employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence or a sex offense under Illinois law; or (3) The employee’s place of business or the employee’s child’s school/caregiver is closed by a public official for a public health emergency.
Employers may require that employees provide up to seven days advance notice if the need for sick leave is foreseeable, such as a planned doctor appointment or court hearing. Otherwise, employees must provide as much notice as is practical. The ordinance allows employees to notify employers of the need for leave via phone, email, or text message. However, employers may implement notification policies, if they do so in writing and the policy is not unreasonably burdensome. Employers may not require an employee to provide documentation to support the need for leave unless the employee is absent for more than three consecutive work days.
Certain employers and industries are exempt from the ordinance. Due to scheduling and staffing considerations, the ordinance does not apply to any employee working in the construction industry who is covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement. The ordinance will not affect any existing collective bargaining agreements. When current contracts are up for renewal, both parties may elect to waive the new sick leave requirements. Unlike Chicago’s ordinance, the Cook County ordinance does not include railroad employees.
Employers in Cook County should review their leave policies to ensure compliance with the new ordinance. Employers that do not currently offer 40 hours or more of paid sick leave to full-time and part-time employees should consult counsel to revise their policies and avoid potential liability.