Cook County, Illinois, has become the most recent jurisdiction to mandate that employers provide paid sick leave benefits for eligible employees. Beginning July 1, 2017, Cook County employers must allow eligible employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The Cook County “Earned Sick Leave” Ordinance was passed on October 5, 2016, and was intended to supplement the corresponding law passed by the City of Chicago on June 22, 2016. It is anticipated that more than 400,000 suburban Cook County employees will now be eligible for paid sick leave as a result of the new Cook County Ordinance.
The requirements of the new Cook County Ordinance closely mirror those of the Chicago Ordinance, with very few differences. Both new laws allow employees to use paid sick leave for not only their own illness, injuries, or medical care (including preventative care), but also for the illness, injuries, or medical care of certain covered family members. “Family member” is defined expansively and goes so far as to include individuals who have a “close association” with the employee which is “the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Unlike any other paid sick leave laws which have been passed throughout the country, both the Cook County and Chicago Ordinances allow certain employees to carry over accrued, unused sick leave that can be used exclusively for FMLA-eligible purposes. The carryover provisions in both new laws are somewhat ambiguous and we remain hopeful that additional regulatory guidance will be provided to employers before the laws become effective next year.