Cook County paid sick leave ordinance takes effect July 1; employers should learn the rules, lawyer says

By Laura Halleman | Jun 23, 2017

On July 1, Cook County's new mandatory paid sick leave ordinance will take effect. And employers would do well to learn if the ordinance will apply to them and to acquaint themselves with the "burdensome" rules, which were released to the public May 25, that the county will use to guide the implementation and enforcement of the ordinance.

A copy of the Cook County’s approved paid sick leave “Interpretative and Procedural Rules” was released to the public May 25 and will officially go into effect on July 1.

The final draft of paid sick leave rules and model notice were issued after a Cook County meeting where public comments were also heard.

Cook County and Chicago are the only areas in Illinois that have paid sick leave ordinances.

Joshua Seidman, associate with Seyfarth Shaw LLP, said employers should pay careful attention to the new ordinance.

“When reviewing the Cook Count final paid sick leave rules employers should be aware of the burdensome standards that they must meet in order to adopt a system that frontloads sick leave to workers at the start of each year in lieu of both accrual and year-end carry over,” Seidman told the Cook County Record. Relatedly, the rules discuss a number of “equivalent practices” that employers can adopt to ease the administrative burden of providing workers with paid sick leave.  While helpful, certain aspects of these equivalent practices can be challenging in their own right, and may not provide many employers with the practical relief they are hoping for.

To be covered as an employer under the county’s Earned Sick Leave Ordinance (ESLO) requirements include having at least one business in Cook County.

The ESLO will allow employees to use any sick leave they have accrued to care for a blood relative or whose relationship is equivalent to a family relationship.

“The Cook County final paid sick leave rules expand employers’ compliance obligations in several respects, such as where employees can use accrued sick leave, annual notice obligations, and the requirements employers must meet to adopt a non-accrual, “use it or lose it” frontloading system, as compared to what was expected when the ordinance was initially passed in 2016,” Seidman said.

Cook County employers are encouraged to ensure they are in full compliance with the ESLO by the effective date.

“Cook County employers should assess whether their operations exist in a Cook County municipality that has opted out of complying with the County’s sick leave ordinance. If the ordinance will apply in the employer’s municipality, the employer should update its policies, practices, and systems as needed to satisfy the Cook County final paid sick leave rules, and ordinance, before the upcoming July 1 effective date,” Seidman said. “Managers and HR personnel also should be trained on any changes to the employer’s sick leave policy and practices, and on how to respond to employee sick leave questions in the coming months.”

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