This article reviews the three new sick-time laws in Illinois. The three laws are the State-wide Employee Sick Leave Act, the Cook County Employer Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, and the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

The State-wide Employee Sick Leave Act is the least expansive in its requirements. It does not require employers to provide sick leave to employees in any amount. If an employer does offer sick leave as a benefit, however, then the employer must permit the employee to use his or her sick leave benefits to care for (due to illness, injury or medical appointment) eligible family members. Eligible family members include the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent. Not all sick leave is required to be available for use to care for eligible family members; an employer can limit it to not less than what would accrue in six months.

As you implement this law, effective Jan. 1, 2017, look at your sick leave policies, including paid time off (PTO) policies, to make sure any conditions on the use of that time are not inconsistent with this new law. Also, while domestic partners are not listed among the eligible family members under the general rule (sick leave can be used for family members), the rules that permit the employer to limit the amount of sick leave for family members does include domestic partners. The best practice will be to include domestic partners among the eligible family members.

The Cook County and City of Chicago ordinances are virtually identical. Where they differ the differences are noted.

Who Does It Apply To?

Both apply to employers with one employee. Additional requirements are noted:

Cook: Either (a) has its principal place of business within Cook County or (b) does business within Cook County. As a practical and legal matter, there is a question whether Cook County has jurisdiction to enforce this requirement on an employer doing business within Cook County without its principal business in Cook County.

Chicago: Either (a) maintains a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the city; and/or (b) is subject to one or more of the license requirements of the city. The license requirement may be the mechanism by which Chicago will enforce this provision on employers who do not maintain their business in Chicago.

Which Employees Are Eligible?

Employees who have been employed for at least 80 hours for the employer within a 120-day period.

Required Accrual Period and Beginning Date

Accrual begins on the first day of employment and accrues each anniversary of the employee’s employment.

Required Accrual Rate

1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked.

Maximum Accrual

Greater of 40 hours or employer’s higher limit.

Required Carryover Rules

At end of accrual period, employee must be able to carry¬over half of unused accrued paid sick time, up to 20 hours. If employer is subject to federal Family and Medical Leave Act, then in addition to the 20-hour carryover mentioned above, up to 40 hours of unused accrued leave to use exclusively on FMLA eligible purposes (note that FMLA purposes may be broader than “sick” time).

Waiting Period

Employees must be permitted to begin using paid sick time no later than the 180th calendar day following employment.

Minimum Increment

Chicago: Minimum increment of use cannot be greater than 4 hours.

No Requirement to Find Replacement

An employer is prohibited from requiring that the employee find a replacement.

Required Uses of Sick Time

Employee may use sick time when:

  • He or she is ill or injured, or for the purpose of receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis or preventative medical care;
  • A member of his or her family is ill or injured, or to care for a family member receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis or preventative medical care;
  • He or she, or a member of his or her family, is the victim of domestic violence as defined in Section 103 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, or is the victim of sexual violence or stalking as defined in Article 11, and Sections 12-7.3, 12-7.4, and 12-7.5 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012; or
  • His or her place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or he or she needs to care for a child whose school or place of care had been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency. For purposes of this section, “public health emergency” is an event that is defined as such by a federal, state of local government, including a school district.

Definition of Family Member

Family Member includes all the relationships included under the state law, except they also include (a) parents of a domestic partner; (b) children also includes foster care relationships and a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis; and c) a parent includes foster parents and a person who stood in loco parentis when employee was a minor child.


An employer can require a health-care provider certification when an employee is absent for more than three consecutive work days, provided that the certification cannot require documentation of the nature of the illness of the employee or family member.

Documentation may also be required when the time is taken due to domestic violence.

No Retaliation

Employees are protected from retaliation for taking sick time.

Enforcement and Penalties

Employees may recover damages equal to three times the full amount of any unpaid sick time denied or lost, plus interest, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Cook County specifies that the civil action must be commenced within there (3) years of the alleged violation.

Notice and Posters

Notice: An employee is provided with notice of his or her right to paid sick leave at the time of employment for Cook County and with the first paycheck for Chicago. Both the county and city will provide a form for this notice.

Posting: Employers must post a notice in a conspicuous place at each facility. The notice will be prepared by the county and city, as applicable.

Reprinted with permission from the January/February 2017 edition of Illinois Banker © 2017 BankNews Media. All rights reserved.

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