This past week, my colleague, Lindsey Marcus, reported on new paid sick leave legislation that is about to become law in Chicago. It’s significant because it reflects a growing number of states and cities joining the mandated paid leave bandwagon.

Because the impending law will affect all of your operations located in Chicago, I provide Lindsey’s analysis here:

Last week, Chicago became poised to join a growing group of cities and states across the country to mandate paid sick leave for employees when a Chicago City Council committee passed a bill that would provide employees with at least 40 hours per year of paid sick leave. On Wednesday, the entire City Council will vote on the bill. With 38 cosponsors (out of a total of 50 aldermen) and the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the so-called Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is almost certain to become law in short order.

Specifics of the Law

Under the Ordinance (pdf), employers must allow employees to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year (unless the employer chooses to set a higher limit). The accrual begins from the employee’s first day of work or from the Ordinance’s effective date of July 1, 2017, whichever is later.

Employees must be allowed to use paid sick leave no later than 180 days after starting employment, and may use it in the following circumstances:

  • For illness or injury of the employee or the employee’s family member, including receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis, or preventive medical care;
  • Where the employee or the employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence or a sex offense; or
  • When the employee’s place of business is closed due to a public health emergency, or the employee needs to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency.

Other Notable Aspects of the Proposed Law

  • Covered Employers: The Ordinance applies to all employers that employ at least one part-time or full-time employee within the city limits and that maintain a business within the city limits or are subject to city licensing requirements. Only construction industry employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement are exempted from the Ordinance.
  • Carry Over: Employees must be allowed to carry over half of their accrued, unused paid sick leave to the following accrual year (so, up to 20 hours per year).
  • Carry Over for FMLA: Moreover, employees must be allowed to carry over up to 40 additional hours of accrued paid sick leave to use exclusively for FMLA purposes. Therefore, for employers covered by the FMLA, employees will be permitted to carry over as many as 60 hours (20 + 40) of paid sick leave per year. (Notably, employers are not required to pay out accrued by unused paid sick leave upon an employee’s termination, unless the applicable collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.)
  • Effect of collective bargaining agreement: For unionized employers, the Ordinance’s requirements do not take effect until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement in place at the time the Ordinance goes into effect. After that date, an employer and union may agree to waive the requirements of the Ordinance in the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Notice to Employees: The Ordinance requires that employers give employees notice of their right to paid sick leave in two forms: 1) a notice posted in a conspicuous place at each facility located within the city; and 2) a notice to employees with their first paycheck. These notices will be developed by the City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
  • No retaliation: Absences taken pursuant to the Ordinance may not be counted under an employer’s absence control policy as an absence that triggers discipline, discharge, demotion, or any other adverse action against the employee.
  • Employees can file suit: Employees may sue for violations of the Ordinance. If a violation is established, employees may be entitled to recover damages equal to three times the full amount of sick leave denied or lost due to the violation, plus interest, as well as attorneys’ fees.

The full City Council is expected to vote on the Ordinance on June 22, and if passed, it immediately will go to Mayor Emanuel for action. Given that the votes are already lined up in support, this latest paid leave law is nearly certain.