Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance: Compliance and Rules

Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance
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Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance:Compliance and Rules

On June 22, 2016 Chicago, Ill. became the second city in the Midwest to enact a Sick Leave Ordinance this year, following Minneapolis. The ordinance applies to all employees working within city limits. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2017. Only 3 months later, Cook County followed Chicago and passed an almost identical Sick Leave Ordinance.

Chicago also led the county in a minimum wage law by passing a minimum wage increase that pushes minimum wage to $13.00 per hour a year faster than Cook County’s new minimum wage initiative. Chicago’s new minimum wage goes from the current wage of $8.25 to $10 in July of 2016. In 2017, the minimum wage raises again to $11 and again to $12 in 2018. In 2019, the new minimum wage in Chicago will be $13. Cook County’s minimum wage doesn’t reach $13 until 2020.

Effective Date Cook County Minimum Wage Chicago’s Minimum Wage
Minimum wage prior to July 1, 2016 $8.25 $10.00

$4.95 Tipped Employees

July 1, 2016 $8.25 $10.50

$5.45 Tipped Employees

July 1, 2017 $10.00 $11.00

$5.96 Tipped Employees

July 1, 2018 $11.00 $12.00

Tipped Emp. increases CPI

July 1, 2019 $12.00 $13.00

Tipped Emp. increases CPI

July 1, 2020 $13.00 Increase according to CPI

There are only a few exceptions to the new minimum wage ordinance. Government employees outside Chicago City Government are exempt from the new minimum wage. Employees under the age of 18 years are exempt and allowed to be paid $.050 below the minimum wage. Adult employees under a probationary period of the first 90 days of employment are also allowed to be paid $.0.50 below the minimum wage. Also exempt are employees who are taking part in  government-subsidized  temporary youth employment programs or transitional programs.

Lastly, employees not covered by the new minimum wage laws are tipped employees. Tipped employees minimum wage increases incrementally until 2018, and then will increase based on the Consumer Price Index. Currently tipped employees are still required to be paid minimum wage, but their employer can credit tips to 40% of the wage. However, the Chicago minimum wage increases a minimum wage above what Illinois law allows. That means that instead of the state statute which would allow tipped employees to earn $4.95 in 2017, the Chicago ordinance requires a minimum wage of $5.95.

Covered Employees under the Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance

Any employee who works in Chicago City limits for 2 hours or more a week is covered under the new Sick Leave Ordinance. In order to be eligible, the employee would need to work at least 80 hours for that same employer within a 120 day period. Even employers who do not have a physical presence in Chicago are held accountable to this ordinance if they have employees who work within Chicago for 2 hours or more a week. That would include delivery person’s, trade show personnel and other employees. If the employee accrues 80 hours in Chicago in a 120 day period, they have earned sick leave. The ordinance also covers any employer who employs 1 or more employee and maintains a place of business in Chicago. This can be a part-time or full time employee, seasonal or temporary employee.

Exclusions to Earned Sick & Safe Time

There are few exceptions to the Chicago Ordinance. Union employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement are able to waive the right to sick leave under that agreement. For unions with bargaining agreements already in place, the new law does not alter those agreements. Agreements reached after July 1, 2017 will have to expressly waive the right to sick leave in the agreement. The newer Cook County Ordinance follows these exclusions exactly. Unlike Chicago, Cook County adds some additional exceptions, which include other government workers, Indian tribes, and businesses owned by Indian Tribes.

Sick Leave Basics including accrual and carryover provisions

Employees earn sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.Sick leave accrual starts on July 1, 2017 for existing employees and on the first date of employment for future employees hired after July 1, 2017. Employers can have a more generous policy, but are required to sick leave accrual to at least 40 hours in a 12 month period. The 12 month period is defined as the 12 months after an employee’s date of hire. Employers are also allowed to limit sick leave to 40 hours of accrual in a 12 month period.

Employees are allowed to carry over unused sick leave at the rate of 20 hours per year. If the business is subject to FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) then the employee is eligible to carry over an additional 40 hours of sick leave to the next 12 month period. Employers can limit the additional sick leave to purposes only covered under FMLA. That means the employee can carry over up to 60 hours of sick leave under FMLA-eligible leave Sick leave can only accrue in 1 hour increments. Overtime-exempt employees are considered to work 40 hours a week for purposes of the sick leave accrual rate.

Allowable Uses for Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave

Chicago City and  Cook County Sick Leave Ordinance defines the acceptable uses for sick leave use:

1- The employee or employee’s family member is ill, injured, or receiving medical treatment, diagnosis, ore preventative care medicine.

2- The employee or employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence, including stalking

3- A public official closes the employee’s place of business because of a public health emergency or the employee needs to take care for a child after a public health official has closed the child’s school or place of care because of a public health emergency.

Family Member Definitions

The Ordinance recognizes biological, step, adopted, foster, legal guard, ward, or in loco parentis relationships.It also recognizes child, spouse, parent, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or parent-in law relationships. Additionally, a domestic partners parents are recognized as is any family relationship related by blood or close association that equates to a family relationship.

Front Loading Sick Leave under Chicago Law

Chicago allows employers to front load sick leave up front in a 12 month period. If employers choose to front load sick leave, they must provide the full 40 hours of sick leave to the employee. This would avoid the need for accrual records for individual employees.

Coordinating with Paid Time Off Policies

Existing paid time off (PTO) policies don’t have to add additional sick leave time to stay compliant. However, employers do need to make sure that PTO  allows employees the 40 hours awarded under the ordinance. Employees must also be able to use the PTO in accordance with the Sick leave Allowances.

Probationary Period and Minimum Usage

After 180 days of employment, employers must allow employees to start using sick leave. Further, Employees can determine how much sick leave they need to use. Even so, employers can place restrictions on minimum increments of sick leave used up to 4 hour blocks. Employers can allow an employee to use smaller increments of sick leave if the employer policy allows it.

Sick Leave Notification and Records

Under the Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance, employers are allowed to have a notification policy that requires notice of up to 7 days. The policy must acknowledge that notice is only required when it is possible and reasonable. Reasonable notice would include pre scheduled appointments with a health care provider or court appointments for domestic violence cases. The notice must also acknowledge that in certain cases the employee may be unable to provide reasonable  notice. In those cases the employer can require an employee to provide notice via phone, email, or text message as soon as is practicable on the day the employee is going to use sick leave. An employer who establishes a notification policy must supply the employee with the written policy and must not make the policy burdensome to employees. All notification policies must be waived if the employee is unable to notify the employer due to an inability to notify such as incapacitated or unconsciousness.

The law also allows employers to establish a documentation policy that requires employees to certify that sick leave is used in accordance with the sick leave ordinance once 3 consecutive days are used. It cannot request the nature of the illness or injury. If the employee is using sick leave due to domestic violence then several pieces of documentation are allowed. These documents include:

  • Police report
  • Court Document
  • Signed Statement from Attorney, Clergy, or Victim Services Advocate
  • Employee’s written statement
  • Written statement of any person with knowledge of the circumstances
  • Any other evidence that supports the employee’s reason for using sick leave

Employers cannot withhold sick leave use until they receive documentation and can only require one documentation to satisfy the requirement. Employees are able to choose which documentation to provide. If employers find employees are abusing sick leave use, then the employer can take disciplinary action, up to termination, toward the employee.

Notifications of Sick Leave Policy

The employer must post in a conspicuous place the sick leave ordinance for employees to see. It must be posted at every facility where employees work. The only exception to this requirement is when the employer has not facilities within Chicago. However, all businesses must supply a copy of the notice in employee’s first paycheck. The notice will be prepared by the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Anti Retaliation

Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance prohibits retaliation against employees who use or attempt to exert their rights under the ordinance. Anti retaliation includes the following actions: unjustified termination, unjustified denial of promotion, unjustified negative evaluations, punitive schedule changes or decreases in the desirability of work assignments. It also prohibits any other forms of harassment linked to the employee’s exercise of rights. Further an absence control policy cannot count absences used in conjunction with paid sick leave hours to discipline, discharge, demote, suspend, or take other adverse action.

Remedies provided by the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

The ordinance provides for triple damages, plus interest, to be awarded to the employee whose rights were violated. The employee can initiate a civil action against the employer. The statute of limitations is three years from the violation date.

Let SwipeClock Help

Businesses who have employees in Chicago and throughout Illinois may have to comply with multiple conflicting City and County ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws. Additionally as the new provisions require a rolling 12 months to be counted from the date of commencement of employment, this adds additional recordkeeping requirements.  Plus, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated December 6, 2016

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