Business Law Alert: What Employers Need to Know: A Trio of Illinois Employee Sick Leave Laws

The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act took effect on January 1, 2017. The Act requires Illinois employers that provide personal sick leave benefits to their employees to allow employees to take such leave for absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of their employees’ family members. The list of family members for whom employees can use their sick leave time includes an employee’s child, stepchild, spouse or domestic partner, sibling, parent, parent-in law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.

Under the Act, an employer must grant leave on the same terms under which employees are able to use sick leave benefits for their own illness or injury. However, the Act allows employers to limit the amount of absences available for the care of family members to “an amount not less than the personal sick leave that would be accrued during six months at the employee’s then current rate of entitlement”. In other words, employers may restrict employees from using more than one half of their yearly sick leave benefits for the care of family members. 

It should be noted that the Act does not require employers to adopt sick leave policies if they do not already have them in place. However, under the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Cook County Earned Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, both taking effect on July 1, 2017, all employers in and around the Chicago-area, regardless of number of employees, are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for every 12-month period of employment for covered employees. The Chicago ordinance covers all employers that maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of Chicago and/or are subject to one or more of the City’s licensing requirements. Municipalities within Cook County may enact their own ordinances opting out of the requirements of the Cook County Ordinance. For employers with labor agreements in effect on July 1, 2017, neither ordinance will affect existing collective bargaining agreements.

Pursuant to the Chicago and Cook County ordinances, beginning on July 1, 2017, a covered employee may accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave over the course of one year at a rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, and can begin to use this accrued sick leave time 180 days after the start of employment. Employees will also have the ability to carry over half of their unused paid sick leave for use during the next 12-month period. Employers that are subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) are required to provide covered employees with the ability to carry over up to 40 hours of unused paid sick leave for use as FMLA leave. If, however, a covered employee carries over 40 hours of FMLA leave and uses it, he or she may not use more than an additional 20 hours of sick leave during the course of that year. In line with the Illinois Sick Leave Act, paid sick leave may be used for the illness or injury of a covered employee or a covered employee’s family member, and when the employee is a victim of domestic violence.

Additionally, under the City and County ordinances, if the need for sick leave is reasonably foreseeable, an employer may require employees give up to seven days advance notice.  However, an employer cannot deny sick leave if an employee fails to provide this notice.  If an employee is absent for more than three consecutive workdays, the employer may require certification of the need for sick leave, but may not require a medical professional to disclose the illness, condition or situation.

Employers that have paid time off (“PTO”) policies giving employees leave in an amount and in a manner that satisfy the requirements of the new paid sick leave laws are not required to provide additional paid leave.  Existing PTO policies that do not meet the requirements of the new ordinances must be modified to comply.

In light of these new legislative developments, Illinois employers should review and, if necessary, update their policies in order to comply with the applicable laws, and train appropriate personnel on the implementation of these new laws.

The Chicago and Cook County ordinances contain a number of additional requirements and allowances not mentioned in this news alert. The attorneys at Gozdecki, Del Giudice, Americus, Farkas & Brocato LLP are prepared to answer any questions you might have regarding these new laws, and to assist you in reviewing and/or modifying your company’s policies affected by these new laws. Information contained in this news alert should not be construed as legal advice or opinion.