Why it matters

Following the recent example of Los Angeles and adding to the current patchwork of jurisdictions providing paid sick leave across the country, two other cities have enacted mandatory sick leave for employees. Beginning July 1, 2017, employers in the city of Chicago must provide eligible employees up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in each 12-month period of employment. Employees are entitled to the leave if they perform at least two hours of work within city limits during any two-week period and work for a covered employer at least 80 hours in any 120-day period. Workers can carry over half of their unused leave to take time for themselves or a family member. A similar law passed in Minneapolis, which will also take effect on July 1, 2017, with employers in that city required to provide workers with one hour of “sick and safe leave” for every 30 hours worked to a maximum of 48 hours per year. Where possible, employers may require advance notice for use of such time and request medical documentation for absences longer than three days, while Minneapolis employees may roll over unused hours for a maximum of 80 hours in a given year. With the passage of the new ordinances, employers with a national presence face additional complications to achieve compliance with the various laws.

Detailed discussion

Joining a growing number of jurisdictions—including Los Angeles, New York, and the state of California—Chicago and Minneapolis jumped on the paid sick leave bandwagon.

“Paid sick leave has a positive effect on the health of not only employees and their family members, but also the health of fellow workers and the public at large,” according to Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. “Employees in every industry occasionally require time away from the workplace to tend to their own health or the health of family members.”

As of July 1, 2017, employees who work a minimum of two hours during any two-week period within city limits and work for a covered employer at least 80 hours in any 120-day period can accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. Employers—defined to include all that employ at least one part-time or full-time employee within city limits and maintain a business within the city limits or are subject to city licensing requirements—may set a higher limit.

Leave begins to accrue on the first day of work (or the effective date of the ordinance, whichever is later) and employees must be allowed to use their leave no later than 180 days after starting employment.

Leave may be used not only for the worker’s own purposes but also for the illness or injury of the employee’s family member, including receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis, or preventative medical care. Leave is also permitted where the employee or the employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence or a sex offense, if the employee’s place of business is closed due to a public health emergency, or for the care of a child whose school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency.

The ordinance broadly defined a “family member” to include a “child, legal guardian or ward, spouse under the laws of any state, domestic partner, parent, spouse or domestic partner’s parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the Employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Employees are permitted to carry over half of their accrued, unused paid sick leave to the following year and must be allowed to carry over up to 40 additional hours of accrued paid sick leave to be used only for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) purposes. For employers covered by the FMLA, that means a maximum of 60 hours per employee that can be rolled over each year. Accrued but unused paid sick leave does not have to be paid out upon an employee’s termination.

If leave is “reasonably foreseeable” (such as a prescheduled appointment with a healthcare provider or a court date in a domestic violence case) an employer may require up to seven days’ notice; otherwise, notice must be given “as soon as is practicable” by phone, e-mail, or text message. An employer may require certification that the leave was authorized under the ordinance if it lasts more than three consecutive work days.

Notice of workers’ right to paid sick leave must be provided in two forms: posted in a “conspicuous” place at each facility located within the city and a copy provided to each employee with his or her first paycheck. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will develop the notices.

Employees were provided with a private right of action for violations of the ordinance and can recover three times the full amount of sick leave denied or lost, plus interest and attorneys’ fees, if a violation is established.

The ordinance is short on exemptions. Construction industry employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement are exempt, and the requirements of the new law do not take effect for unionized employees until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement in place at the time the ordinance takes effect. Once July 1, 2017 passes, a union and employer may agree to waive the requirements of the city’s law in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Minneapolis’ ordinance contains many similarities.

Pursuant to the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, employers within the city limits with six or more employees must provide eligible workers with one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 48 hours per year. Employers with five or fewer employees are also required to provide 48 hours of leave per year but as unpaid time. A new company may provide unpaid leave during its first year of business before paying for leave if it has six or more employees beginning the second year.

Covered employees—those that work at least 80 hours per year in Minneapolis—are permitted to carry over unused leave up to a maximum of 80 hours. Employees may take leave to care for themselves or for family members due to illness or domestic violence as well as take care of their children on days when school is cancelled.

Where possible, employers may require advance notice for the use of leave and medical documentation for absences that last longer than three days. The ordinance provides that employers who already offer a paid leave policy to their workers that “meets or exceeds, and does not otherwise conflict” with the Minneapolis law do not need to provide additional time.

Written notice of the new law, set to take effect July 1, 2017, must be provided to employees in handbooks as well as postings at worksites, and employers also have an obligation to maintain records of accrued and used sick and safe leave. These records need to be provided to employees upon request, either electronically or in writing.

Violations of the new ordinance are subject to an administrative process before the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. Penalties escalate over time, with a first violation resulting in a warning and notice to correct. Subsequent violations can trigger penalties ranging from reinstatement and back pay to crediting an employee for wrongfully withheld leave plus the payment of double the value of the unpaid sick and safe time or $250, whichever is greater, to up to a $1,500 administrative penalty or administrative fine of up to $50 per day.

To read the Chicago ordinance, click here.

To read the Minneapolis ordinance, click here.