It Pays to Be Sick In Cook County and Chicago!!!



Effective July 1, 2017, eligible workers in the City of Chicago and certain areas of Cook County will now be afforded a new work benefit – Paid Sick Time. These new legislative packages will allow employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.

A brief summary of the new laws reveals:

  • What employers are required to offer this benefit?: Virtually all employers are covered by these ordinances if they have at least one (1) employee and a place of business within the County.


  • Accrual Period: An employer may use any twelve (12) month period it prefers to use for accrual purposes (i.e. calendar year, fiscal year, etc.). Notably, the accrual period does not have to begin on July 1, 2017 when the ordinances take effect.


  • Accrual Methods: There are fairly complex rules about how and when employees accrue earned sick leave, but at a minimum, employees are required to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours per year. Employers may also “front load” sick time whereby employees are provided the full amount of leave at the start of the accrual period.


  • Carryover: Generally, employees must be allowed to carryover half of their unused accrued sick leave from one accrual period to the next, up to a maximum of 20 hours. If an employer is large enough to be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees must be allowed to carryover up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave to be used for FMLA purposes.


  • Use of sick leave: The new ordinances allow for the use of paid sick leave for the same reasons: 1) for an employee’s illness or injury (including medical care, treatment and diagnosis) and preventative medical care; 2) if an employee needs to care for an ill or injured family member or if a family member is receiving preventative care; 3) if an employee or family member is victim of domestic violence or a sex offense; 4) for an employee’s need to care for a child whose school has been closed due to a public health emergency; or 5) if the employee’s place of business has been closed for the same reason.


  • Use it or Lose it: Unlike earned vacation time, which must be paid out upon an employee’s termination from an employer, there is no right to be paid out unused sick time when an employee leaves an employer. Essentially, this benefit is a “use it or lose it” benefit.


  • PTO May Satisfy the New Law: If an employer provides paid time off (PTO) at a rate and in a manner that complies with the ordinance, such a policy may satisfy the requirements of the ordinance.


  • Employers Must Have Written Policies: A written policy regarding the use and reasons allowable to use paid sick leave is essential. For example:


  • The ordinance allows an employer to prohibit a new employee from using any accrued sick leave until the employee has worked at least 180 days for the employer. If an employer’s policy does not address when employees may begin to use paid sick leave it will be assumed will be able to use any accrued leave as soon as they become eligible, namely once they have worked at least 80 hours during a 120 day period.


  • The policy must allow for a minimum increment in which paid sick leave can be used, generally no fewer than 40 hours per incident.


  • Employers may set reasonable requirements for employees to provide notification that they are using paid sick leave time. If an employer has no written policy with respect to its notice requirements, the employee can use paid sick leave without providing any prior notification and without suffering  any disciplinary action as a result.


  • Anti-Retaliation: As with most laws designed to protect employees from overzealous employers, the law specifically disallows an employer from retaliating in any way against an employee who uses paid sick time. This can include prohibitions on written or oral warnings, disallowing an employee to use the aid sick time, counting “points” under an attendance policy, or change in work assignments as a punishment for taking sick time.


  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: The ordinance is overseen by the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. Failure of an employer to abide by the new ordinance can be costly. If a violation is found, the fines may reach $1,000 per day, per affected employee, award of lost wages and other injunctive relief. Employees may also bring their own private lawsuit.


There was a carve out built into the ordinance which allows municipalities within Cook County to “opt out” of having their employers provide paid sick leave. The list of municipalities who have chosen not to be covered by the law includes: Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bedford Park, Elk Grove Village, Elmwood Park, Mt. Prospect, Oak Forest, Palatine, Palos Heights, Palos Park, River Forest, Riverside, Rolling Meadows, Rosemont, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Tinley Park, Burr Ridge, Evergreen Park, Hickory Hills and Wheeling. The list will grow as time goes on.


All employers should review their policies and procedures in order to be in compliance with the new Paid Sick Time regulations that may affect them. Now is the time to polish up the employee manual (or write on if none exists). Boznos Law can help in this regard as we routinely help employers with policy manuals. We can also help with training managers and supervisors on how to implement the new law. For example, there is a record keeping requirement that mandates that employers keep records of all accrued sick time earned, when it was used and the dates on which the employee used it.


With over 30 years’ experience in advising employers on cutting edge employment law issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the ever-changing employment law landscape. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at through our website at


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