Answers to the Top 5 Questions About the Cook County and Chicago Earned/Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

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1. What are the differences between the Cook County and Chicago Earned/Paid Sick Leave Ordinances?

The Ordinances are virtually identical - the largest exception being references to location (City of Chicago versus Cook County) of applicability. If an employer complies with the Cook County Ordinance, it has also complied with the City Ordinance. An employee seeking relief from a local administrative agency for an alleged violation (assuming that he or she does not want to pursue a private action in court) should seek redress from the appropriate agency: a City agency for an alleged violation of the City's Ordinance (Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection) and the Cook County agency for an alleged violation of the County's Ordinance (Cook County Commission on Human Rights). Cook County has promulgated regulations to help guide employers in implementing the Ordinance. Employers required to comply with the City's Ordinance may use these regulations as a guide for compliance as well.

2. Must accrued Earned/Paid Sick Leave appear on an employee's pay stubs?

The Cook County regulations do not appear to require that Earned/Paid Sick Leave be reflected on the paystub of the employee earning it. However, it is a good practice which would help ensure compliance with the employer's record keeping requirements of the regulations (See Interpretive and Procedural Rules Governing the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance Section 800.100)

3. Does it matter where the employer is "headquartered" for purposes of determining whether its employees accrue Earned/Paid Sick Leave?

No. The regulations state that any fixed location where the business of the employer is transacted is a place of business for purposes of determining compliance (even a storage facility!). An employer who has at least one place of business within Cook County with one employee who is paid for at least two hours of work performed within Cook County in any two-week period must comply with the Ordinance (assuming that an employer is not excepted from compliance (e.g., its only place of business and all of its employees work in an opted-out municipality)). (See Section 310.100 and 320.100).

4. Are employee class actions against employers violating the Earned/Paid Sick Leave Ordinances allowed?

The Ordinances extend a Private Right of Action to employees. Assuming that the law suit otherwise meets the criteria required to certify as a class action, it appears class actions are allowed under the Ordinances. Penalties for violation of the Ordinances are stiff (up to $500 per violation, per employee, per day) (Section 1030.100). However, the regulations state that for the first year (and potentially later years) after the effective date of the Ordinance, if an employer/respondent in a complaint for violation of the Ordinance provides evidence that it is in, or has come back into, full compliance with the Ordinance (including full payment of any lost wages resulting from noncompliance), then the Commission will dismiss the complaint with prejudice (see 1020.800).

5. How and when are employers required to provide employees a notice of rights under the Ordinances?

Employers are required to notify each employee of his or her rights under the Ordinances (1) by the later of his or her Date of Coverage (e.g., the employee performed at least two hours of work in a two-week period present in Cook County) or Date of Eligibility (the first date the employees has worked 80 hours within any 120 day period for a Covered Employer) AND (2) at least once yearly. (See 700.200). A good practice is to provide eligible employees the form notice supplied by the County at the time of hire AND as part of the materials accompanying his or her paycheck yearly thereafter.