The City of Chicago joined a growing list of cities requiring private employers to provide paid sick leave to its employees. With no federal sick pay requirement, employers in the City of Broad Shoulders will now need to bear the burden of paying employees who miss work for qualifying reasons.  

Chicago amended its Minimum Wage Law (that now mandates payment of $10.50 per hour for employees and $5.95 for tipped employees) to require accrual by employees of one hour of paid leave for each 40 hours of work, up to 40 per year. It takes effect beginning July 1, 2017. Any entity or person that maintains a business within the City or that is subject to a City license is covered, regardless of the number of employees. Employees may use paid sick leave for their own illness or medical care, or for that of a family member, or if any of them are  a victim of domestic violence or a sex offense. If the employer is covered by the FMLA, employees may carry over up to 40 hours to the next year. Other employers must allow employee to carry over lesser amounts. Unused paid leave does not, however, need to be paid out on termination. Covered employees include anyone who works as little as two hours of work for a covered employer while physically present within Chicago City in any two-week period and works at least 80 hours for a covered employer in any 120-day period. Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are not included, but only if the agreement contains a specific waiver.  Meanwhile, like absences under the FMLA, employers cannot discipline employees for using the leave or count time off toward an excessive absenteeism policy.

Many employer’s current PTO policies are likely to satisfy the paid leave requirement, but all employers will still be required to post notices of the law in conspicuous locations for employees in Chicago and to provide specific notices to individuals of the minimum wage and their rights to paid sick leave. The Ordinance is complicated and employers must keep abreast of the patchwork of local and state laws and their interplay with other state and federal laws to ensure their compliance and avoid lawsuits damages triple the amount of leave denied and the payment of plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.