Cook County Paid Sick Leave Passed by Board of Commissioners  


Cook County, Illinois today moved closer to becoming the second county in the country to enact a paid sick leave law.  The county’s Board of Commissioners today approved a revised, substitute bill.  If signed by the county president and certified by the county clerk, the ordinance will go into effect on July 1, 2017.  Cook County is the nation’s second largest county and includes Chicago.cook-county-seal

The Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance looks remarkably like the Chicago paid sick leave law Even the “whereas” clauses are similar.  An “employer” includes any entity that employs at least one employee within Cook County. Eligible employees are those who work at least 80 hours within any 120-day period and who work at least two hours within Cook County within a two week period.

The rhythm of this legislation is very familiar. An employee will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. An employer may cap the accrual at 40 hours per an employee’s anniversary year. An employee may carry over up to 20 hours of unused leave, except that if the employer is subject to the FMLA, the employee may carry over up to 40 additional hours for use for FMLA purposes. An employer may frontload 40 hours of paid time off and avoid accruing by the hour.

An employee may use accrued PSL no later than the 180th day of employment. An employee may use PSL for medical care, treatment, diagnoses or preventative medical care of the employee or a family member. “Family member” is very broadly defined and includes those who are like family even though they are not, i.e., those with whom the employee has “a close association” that is “the equivalent of a family relationship.”  I discussed “like” relatives here in connection with Executive Order 13706, which requires certain federal government contractors to provide paid sick leave.  An employee may also use PSL if or she or a family member was the victim of domestic violence, or if the employee’s workplace or child’s school or place of care has been closed due to a public health emergency.

For reasonably foreseeable leaves, an employer may require up to seven days’ notice. For unforeseeable leave, the employee may be required to give notice “as soon as is practicable on the day the employee uses PSL. Any notice requirement shall be waived if the employee is unconscious or otherwise medically incapacitated.

An employer must post a notice and deliver a notice to employees at the outset of employment about their rights under this county law. The county will prepare template notices for employers to use. An earlier version of the ordinance included the unique requirement that employers post their sick leave policy on a publicly-accessible, county-maintained website.  This is not in the draft that was approved today.

As with the Chicago ordinance, an employer and union may waive the requirements of the law in their labor contract. It remains unclear to me why the ordinance would give an employer and union the ability to opt out of the public policy behind this legislation as described in the “whereas” clauses.  Help me understand that.

The ordinance creates a private right of action and allows for three times the unpaid or denied sick time. Also, violators may be barred from entering into a contract with the county for fire years from the determination that a violation has occurred.