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Cook County approves paid sick leave law

October 21, 2016
The Cook County Board voted this month to require that employers give workers paid sick time, bringing the county’s suburbs in line with a Chicago law approved in June. Both ordinances take effect July 1, 2017.
The largely identical measures allow employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. Employees can accrue a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave a year, or about five days, unless their employer sets a higher limit.
Cook County joins nearly 30 local jurisdictions across the country that have adopted paid sick leave laws in recent years in the absence of a broad federal law. The U.S. Department of Labor in September issued a final rule requiring that federal contractors let employees earn up to seven paid sick days a year.
Business interest groups including the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association opposed the Cook measure, saying it would contribute to an unfriendly business climate.
"This mandate will lead to greater uncertainty for employers and fewer employment opportunities," Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants, said in a statement.
About 40 percent of private-sector workers in Cook County, or 840,000 people, currently do not receive any paid sick leave, according to the local legislation. Low-wage workers are the most likely to not receive any paid sick days, and advocates say they are the least able to afford forgoing their wages or risking their jobs to take a day off for their health.
The legislation applies to employers of all sizes and to anyone who works at least 80 hours for an employer within any four-month period, so most part-time workers qualify.
New employees would start accruing time off right away, but the law allows employers to not permit them to use it for up to six months after their start dates, so many temporary or seasonal workers would be excluded.
Paid sick time can be used if a worker or a family member becomes ill, and also in the event of domestic violence or the closing of a school or business due to a public health emergency.
Employees with collective bargaining agreements could decide to waive the sick leave requirements in their contracts.