Paid Sick Time Is Now the Law in Chicago and Cook County

July 13th, 2017

Ordinances went into effect on July 1st, giving workers the right to up to five days of paid sick time annually

(Chicago)  – In Chicago and Cook County, paid sick time is the law as of July 1st and workers now have the right to earn up to five days of paid sick time a year to care for themselves, their children or other loved ones, regardless of the size of their employer or whether they work full-time or part-time.

Paid sick time will change the lives of 450,000 of Chicago’s private-sector workers and thousands more in Cook County who did not have paid sick time until this month. Most are low-wage workers who are the least able to afford forgoing their wages or risking their jobs during an illness.

“No one should have to work when they’re sick and now, under this important new law, no one has to,” said Iliana Mora, president and CEO of Women Employed, a nonprofit advocacy organization which fought for passage of the law. “Hundreds of thousands of workers will now be able to do something very simple, which is to stay home to take care of themselves or their family members when they get sick, without losing a day’s pay or having to risk getting fired.”

Workers in Chicago and Cook County now qualify for paid sick time after six months on the job, and are able to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, with a limit of five paid sick days in a 12-month period. Up to 20 hours of unused sick time can be carried over to the following year. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against those who use sick time and also prohibited from requiring workers to find a replacement to cover their shifts.

Laqueanda Reneau, a 24-year-old single mother from Roseland, said the new law would make a big difference in her life. She recalled having to send her six-year-old son to school when he was sick even though she knew he would likely throw up in class. After getting a call from her son’s school, she would be allowed to leave work – but she wasn’t allowed to call off in advance. “It broke my heart to send my young son to school when he was sick, but I couldn’t afford to lose my job,” she said.

Beyond the economic benefits for workers, studies suggest paid sick leave laws reduce the spread of illness and reduce health care costs by promoting the use of preventative care instead of emergency services.

Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, owners of Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, began offering paid sick time for employees as soon as they opened in 2013. It was the right thing to do, and they didn’t want sick employees spreading germs to customers and staff. Now they say they’ve discovered another added benefit. “We have very loyal employees and very little turnover, and we attribute that directly to our paid sick time policy,” said Kulp. “Turnover can be expensive and timely, and we’ve found paid sick time benefits our bottom line.”

With the respective laws, Chicago and Cook County join two dozen other cities, including New York, Seattle and Minneapolis that in recent years have enacted laws on paid sick time. But, in the aftermath of the passage of local laws, several Cook County suburbs have opted out, meaning that employers in those suburbs do not have to offer paid sick time. Workers in suburban Cook County can check with local ordinances or look up the town or village where they work through if they are unsure whether their employer must offer paid sick time.

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Women Employed mobilizes people and organizations to expand educational and employment opportunities for America’s working women. Founded in 1973, Women Employed has spent four decades opening doors, breaking barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women. Visit Women Employed online or on social media at FacebookTwitterPinterest and LinkedIn.

Together, we will ensure more women, families, and communities can build their economic power and thrive.

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