In anticipation of the upcoming effective date (July 1, 2017) of the Cook County “Earned Sick Leave” Ordinance, the Cook Commission on Human Rights recently published the mandatory poster required to be posted by all employers covered by the Ordinance. A copy of the poster is available here.

The Commission also recently published draft regulations for the Ordinance that provide, at least in some cases, clarity to and interpretation of the Ordinance’s provisions. The draft regulations are here. Such draft regulations are anticipated to be adopted by June 1, 2017, well in advance of the effective date of the Ordinance. Some of the more significant highlights of the draft regulations are contained below:

  • While the Ordinance provides the accrual period begins on July 1, 2017 or an employee’s first date of employment, whichever is later, the draft regulations also state that an employer may define their own accrual period that is consistent with its own benefit year. Therefore, provided an employer accrues and tracks benefits, such as PTO, on a calendar year basis, it can likewise track paid sick leave on that same calendar year basis.
  • The draft regulations also make clear that, while many municipalities have opted out of the Ordinance (and the list of those municipalities is growing), employers still may be covered, and obligated to provide sick leave, in the event the company’s employees perform compensated work at a location in Cook County that has not opted out. In other words, an employee who may be authorized to work from home, and who lives in a municipality within Cook County that has not opted out, will be entitled to earn sick leave despite the company being located in a municipality that has opted out of the Ordinance.
  • The draft regulations also clarify that employers may “front load” paid sick leave as an alternative to the accrual method. Many smaller companies may have difficulty tracking the amount of sick leave a particular employee may earn. Accordingly, the regulations clarify the permissibility of allowing covered employers to “front load” paid sick leave if the employer provides covered employees the maximum amount of earned sick leave the employee could accrue during the relevant accrual period.
  • In addition to conspicuously posting the required poster at each business facility where any covered employee works within Cook County, the regulations clarify that all covered employees must also be provided a notice of rights by the employee’s date of coverage or eligibility. This could be provided and inserted into the employee’s first paycheck. Alternatively, such notice of rights could be provided to the employee during any orientation period.

What should employers do to prepare?

This Ordinance is significant for a large portion of Cook County employers. While there is still time to prepare for the effective date of this Ordinance, Cook County employers should consider and implement some of the following actions:

  • Evaluate whether an existing paid time off (PTO) policy will satisfy the requirements of the Ordinance.
  • Determine whether to use an accrual or lump-sum method of providing paid sick leave.
  • Review and revise, if necessary, existing paid sick leave time and/or paid time off policies and procedures to meet the Ordinance’s requirements.
  • Audit time-keeping, payroll and benefit systems to insure proper tracking of paid sick leave usage, accrual, caps, and carry over limits.
  • Ensure that the proper written notices will be provided, including the applicable poster at each worksite located within Cook County, as well as the separate employee notice provided to each employee in their first paycheck following the effective date of the Ordinance, or upon hiring, whichever is later.

For a more detailed summary of the Ordinance’s provisions, please see my colleague’s earlier post on the Ordinance here.