On December 14, 2023, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the Cook County Paid Leave Ordinance. This ordinance converts the existing Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance into an ordinance requiring paid leave for any reason effective December 31, 2023. See prior Benefit Beat article here.
The ordinance applies to any employer employing at least one person in Cook County. Employee means a common law employee excluding:
- An employee as defined in the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act,
- A temporary college or university student-employee, and
- A short-term employee of an institution of higher learning.
Accrual, Carryover and Frontloading
An employee who works in Cook County is entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period. Paid leave is accrued at the rate of one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours. An employee may carryover any unused paid leave from one 12-month period to the next subject to the cap of 40 hours.
Employees can begin using paid leave 90 days following commencement of employment or the effective date of this ordinance, whichever is later. Employers may set a reasonable minimum increment for the use of paid leave not to exceed 2 hours per day.
Alternatively, an employer may frontload 40 hours of paid leave on the first day of employment or the first day of the 12-month period. An employer who frontloads paid leave is not required to carry over paid leave from one 12-month period to the next and may require employees to use all paid leave prior to the end of the 12-month period or forfeit the unused paid leave.
The 12-month period may be any consecutive 12-month period designated by the employer in writing at the time of hire.
An employee may request to use paid leave either orally or in writing. An Employee is not required to provide an employer a reason for the leave and may not be required to provide documentation or certification as proof or in support of the leave. An employer may require the employee to provide advance notice of 7 calendar days before the date the leave is to begin.
While the ordinance does not require unused leave to be paid out upon termination of employment, state law might and must be considered. If there is a separation from employment and the employee is rehired within 12 months of separation by the same employer, previously accrued paid leave that had not been used by the employee shall be reinstated.
The employer shall maintain coverage for the employee and any family member under any group health plan for the duration of such leave at the same level and conditions of coverage as if the employee had not taken the leave. The employee must continue to pay his/her share of the cost of coverage while on leave.
Employer’s existing policy
Employers may use their pre-existing PTO-policies for compliance without modifying that policy if it provides employees with at least 40 hours of paid leave per year, which can be used for any reason.
Employer posting and record keeping requirement
Every employer shall post a notice, prepared by the Commission on Human Rights, in a conspicuous place at each facility in the geographic boundaries of Cook County advising the employee of his/her rights under the ordinance. If the workforce has a significant portion of non-English speakers, the notice must be posted in other languages as well. Employers that do not maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the County are exempt from this requirement.
Employers must also provide the notice, prepared by the Commission, to employees at commencement of employment or 90 days following the effective date of this ordinance, whichever is later.
Employers must maintain records documenting hours worked, paid leave accrued and taken, and remaining paid leave balance for each employee for at least 3 years.
Coordination with other laws
This law must be coordinated with Chicago’s paid sick leave ordinance. Employees entitled to leave under the Cook County ordinance need not be provided benefits under the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act, which takes effect January 1, 2024.
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