Cook County Sick Leave & Minimum Wage Law

Businesses located outside Cook County, Illinois should count their lucky stars. That’s because the administrative side of Human Resources just got super sticky for employers located inside Cook County. Back in 2016, Cook County, IL. passed a sick leave and minimum wage ordinance. The new ordinance granted up to 40 days of paid sick leave to employees each year and raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Before July 1, 2017, the minimum wage in Cook County was set at the State wage of $8.25.

Cook County Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Creates a Compliance Monster

The new ordinance makes compliance more difficult than usual due to two main factors. First, Illinois is a home rule state. That means that if county or state laws overstep a municipality’s authority, the city or village has the option to opt out or write a new law to control the overreach. This means that although Cook County has passed the new ordinance, villages and town can opt out or create a different law that nullifies the county law. So far over 100 of the counties 126 municipalities have done just that.

In addition, Cook County followed Chicago with passing a sick leave ordinance. Although the minimum wage is identical to Chicago’s new wage law, the sick leave ordinance has some differences. This means that Chicago employers must be mindful of both laws if they have any employees work, even occasionally, outside Chicago City limits. Then they must comply with and track sick leave accrual under both laws.

It also means that employers with multiple locations within Cook County must monitor which cities and towns have opted in and out of the county benefits law and must track village limits and the work locations of their employees.

This creates a massively large and time consuming project for human resource employees and can become an expensive and overwhelming job for a small business. It only gets more difficult to comply with the new laws when specific employees work or travel through the county as they would only be entitled to sick leave accrual when in certain cities or unincorporated county.

Final Rules of Sick Leave Law Create a Tangled Web

When the final rules to the Sick Leave ordinance came out at the end of May, it answered some questions left unaddressed by the ordinance, but failed to clarify many important questions.

Even more, the final rules added nuances that make sick leave tracking and compliance more difficult for human resource professionals. One of these is how sick leave rolls to following years.

Rolling Sick Leave to Following Years

The “how to” of rolling sick leave from one year to the next is one aspect that will cost employers hours of pouring over the regulation to understand the nuances adequately. The Cook County Ordinance requires that employers allow employees to roll up to 20 hours to the following year, unless it’s more, or less, depending.

Basically, employees can roll up to 20 hours to the following year, but the amount rolled is restricted to half of the unused sick leave. For an employee who has 40 hours of unused sick leave, the amount able to be rolled will initially be 20 hours, but an employee with 30 hours of unused sick leave can only roll 15 hours.

That is, unless the employee and the employer are considered FMLA covered, then the employee must be able to roll up to 60 hours of sick leave to the following year, but also with a caveat and a series of calculations.

The employee who has 40 hours of unused sick leave can roll 20 hours (as stated above) for regular sick leave use. Since that employee has 20 hours that wasn’t able to be rolled, they can also roll 20 more hours of sick leave that can be used only for FMLA use. That employee now has 40 hours of rolled sick leave.

The employee who has 30 hours of unused sick leave can roll 15 hours for regular use because that is ½ of the total unused sick leave left. The remaining 15 hours can then be used for FMLA only purposes.

An employee with 70 hours of unused sick leave can roll 20 hours, the maximum amount, for regular sick leave usage. There are then 50 hours of unused sick leave left. 40 of those hours can then be rolled for FMLA use the following year and 10 hours would be forfeit. The employee will have rolled the maximum amount of 60 hours, 20 for regular use and 40 for FMLA use.  

Thus, the additional 40 hours of sick leave that is rolled is specifically for employees who use 40 hours of sick leave for FMLA qualified use. If the employee uses less than 40 hours of paid sick leave for FMLA use, then the employee gets no additional sick leave to use for the year. Additionally the extra sick leave must be from regularly accrued or rolled over earned sick leave. The ability to use additional sick leave does not mean the employee is able to earn more than 40 hours of sick leave in a given year.

This means that in addition to employers having to track sick leave and allowing it to be rolled, they also have to track the buckets that sick leave fall into. These buckets include the quantity of sick leave earned, the amount used, the amount rolled, how much additional rolled that can be used for FMLA, how much earned in the new year and so on. This creates an administrative nightmare that is nearly impossible to manage without HR software.

Let SwipeClock Help

Businesses located anywhere in Cook County must be aware of the geographical lines in which the minimum wage changes and the parts of the county in which sick leave laws are in place. These businesses have to comply with multiple conflicting City and County ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws.

Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Medical Leave Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws.

Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according to the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.