Cook County Issues Proposed Paid Sick Leave Rules

By Jim Griffin, JD, Employment Counsel
Published April 18, 2017

On October 5, 2016, the Cook County Board of Commissioners enacted the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, which requires most employers in Cook County to provide paid sick leave for their employees beginning on July 1, 2017. Although the ordinance outlined the basic requirements that employers would have to meet, there were several ambiguities within its provisions, which led to many questions and much speculation as to how employers could effectively comply with the ordinance. The Board of Commissioners left it to the Cook County Commission on Human Rights to administer the ordinance and draft all notices required under it. On April 10, 2017, the Commission on Human Rights published draft rules that will govern its interpretation and enforcement of the ordinance. As noted, the rules are in draft form, and are subject to public comment and revision based on the comments and further deliberation. Here are a few highlights of the proposed rules:

  • An employer may institute a waiting period of up to 180 days before an employee can use earned sick time. Thus, while seasonal employees must earn paid sick leave, they may never actually be entitled to use it if the season is shorter than 180 days. Furthermore, an employee who has been separated from employment for at least 120 days is considered to have commenced new employment for the purposes of these proposed rules, so a returning seasonal employee could again be subject to another 180-day waiting period. 
  • Many employers have employees who work at several locations, some of which are in Cook County and some of which are not.  Under the ordinance, an employee only earns paid sick time (at a rate of one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked) based on work that is performed within the geographic boundaries of Cook County. However, once an employee has earned that sick time, he or she is entitled to use it to cover any work time, whether that work was set to take place in Cook County or not.
  • While the ordinance primarily contemplates that an employee’s accrual period will be based on his or her anniversary date, the rules recognize that some employers may want to standardize their accrual periods for ease of administration, and offer options as to how to do so. Under the most straightforward choice, an employer can have a standard accrual period for all employees (e.g., January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018). Then, all employees who start on a date other than January 1, 2018, must be allowed to carry over all unused accrued sick time from their first year to the following year. For example, an employee who starts on April 1, 2018, and does not use any sick time in 2018, can carry over 30 sick hours to the following calendar year. In all subsequent years, the employee will be allowed to carry up to a maximum of 20 hours on January 1.

You can access all 51 pages of the proposed rules in their entirety here. Click the link titled, “Notice of Rulemaking Minimum Wage (Solicitation of Public Comment on Draft Rules)". You can also attend our upcoming webinar on all the recently passed laws and ordinances pertaining to sick time, which will include a discussion of these proposed rules.

Finally, contact us at or 800-448-4584 with questions regarding these proposed rules or how to make your sick time policy compliant with them.


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