Attorney details sick leave changes in Cook County
As of July 1, Cook County businesses had to be up to date on changes to the Illinois Sick Leave Act, and a Chicago law firm has offered some insights regarding those changes.
Keefe, Campbell Biery & Associates (KCB&A) notes that amendments to the law, which went into effect in its original form in January, clarifies the definition of sick leave, adds stepchildren to the list of family members included, and makes clear that half of an employee's sick time may be used for family purposes.
The law allows sick leave days to be used for an employee's illness, injury or medical care and for those of family members, according to law firm. Employees may also use their sick leave days if they or a member of their family has been the victim of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking.
Lilia Picazo, a researcher for the firm, urged businesses in Chicago and Cook County to review their policies to ensure that they would be compliant with the changes. Violations allow employees to seek damages of up to three times the amount of unpaid earned sick time, as well as interest and attorney fees.
Employers that maintain a business facility within Chicago or are subject to city business licensing requirements are required to comply with the new ordinance’s requirements, as are Cook County employers who have a place of business within the county’s borders. Employees become eligible for coverage by working at least 80 hours over a 120-day period, with at least two hours spent working in Cook County in any two-week period.
From July 1 or from the first day after their start of employment, covered employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours they work in Cook County, with a cap of 40 hours of sick leave each year. Sick leave accrual for workers who are not subject to overtime requirements will be based on a 40-hour workweek, while leave will be based on a typical workweek to determine their 12-month accrual period. Employees are not entitled to a payout of their earned sick leave upon termination but can carry over half of their accrued earned sick leave to the next year. Workers who are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) have additional carryover benefits.
Employers are required to notify their workers of the new earned sick leave policies, both through written notice at the beginning of their employment and a clearly posted notice in the workplace. The Cook County Commission is planning to provide a form notice that employers can use to fulfill both requirements.
Employees are also subject to notification requirements. They must provide notice of up to seven days in advance of any reasonably foreseeable uses of their earned sick leave. In instances when employees use their earned sick leave for more than three consecutive workdays, employers can require them to certify their use of that leave.
For unforeseeable uses of earned sick leave, employees are required to inform their employers in a timely manner, though obviously the notification requirements are waived in instances of unconsciousness or medical incapacitation. Workers subject to FMLA using their earned sick leave in ways covered under the law must notify their employers as stipulated in the law.
An employer covered under the ordinance may not punish employees for using their earned sick leave.
Picazo notes, in concluding her analysis, that a number of municipalities in Cook County have already opted out of the new ordinance, and that the firm expects even more to do so.
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