Effective July 1, 2017, employers of any size with a place of business within Cook County, Illinois will be required to provide paid sick leave to their covered employees under the new Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance. A covered employee is defined as any employee who, in any particular two-week period, performs at least two hours of work for an employer while physically present within Cook County. Any covered employee who works at least 80 hours for an employer within any 120-day period is eligible to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a cap of 40 hours’ earned sick leave per 12-month period. An employee may carry over to the following 12-month period half of his or her unused accrued earned sick leave, up to a maximum of 20 hours. A covered employee is entitled to use no more than 40 hours of earned sick leave per 12-month period.

A covered employee may use earned sick leave when he or she is ill or injured, or to receive medical care, treatment, diagnosis or preventative medical care, as well as to care for a family member who is ill, injured or receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis or preventative medical care. A covered employee may also use paid sick leave when he or she or a family member is the victim of domestic violence. If a covered employee is absent for more than three consecutive work days, his or her employer may require certification that the earned sick leave was authorized under the ordinance, including documentation signed by a licensed health care provider. There is a notice and posting requirement in the ordinance, as well as an anti-retaliation provision. An employer who violates any provision of the ordinance may be liable in a civil action for damages equal to three times the full amount of any unpaid sick leave denied or lost by reason of the violation, plus lost interest, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. An employer is not required to pay an employee for unused earned sick leave on separation from employment. The Cook County ordinance is yet another new employment law expanding leave of absence rights for employees. Employers should review and update their employment policies and employee handbooks accordingly.