Employment Law Alert

Navigating the New Illinois, Cook County, and City of Chicago Paid Leave Laws

December 28, 2023


For many Illinois employers, the new year will bring new obligations to provide their employees paid leave. After Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Paid Leave for All Workers Act (the “Illinois Act”) into law earlier this year, the City of Chicago and Cook County followed suit with new paid leave requirements of their own (the “Chicago Ordinance” and “Cook County Ordinance,” respectively).

The three laws overlap but contain significant differences. At a high level, all three laws require covered employers to provide up to 40 hours per year of paid leave to eligible employees, though the Chicago Ordinance also requires employers to provide paid sick leave. Each law also provides for carry over of leave from year to year and contains certain posting and recordkeeping requirements, among many other obligations.

To aid employers in complying with these laws, the chart below sets forth some of the key features of each law (these laws include many nuances and other provisions not detailed in this summary):

Illinois Act

Cook County Ordinance

Chicago Ordinance

Effective Date January 1, 2024 December 31, 2023 July 1, 2024
Coverage Employees working in Illinois Employees working in Cook County Employees working at least 80 hours within any 120-day period while physically present within the City of Chicago
Accrual 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours in a 12-month period 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours in a 12-month period 1 hour of paid leave and 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to 40 hours each in a 12-month period
Use For any reason For any reason Paid leave for any reason and paid sick leave for certain injuries, illnesses, and medical appointments
Frontloading Permitted Yes Yes Yes
Private Right of Action No express private right of action Yes Yes
Other Notable Features Safe harbor provision (discussed below) Safe harbor provision (discussed below) Unique obligations for unlimited PTO policies

In light of these forthcoming laws, employers with employees located in Illinois should take the following steps:

Understand Which Law Applies: Determine whether any of the above laws apply to your employees, and, if so, which ones. As a practical matter, any particular employee will be entitled to the most generous leave available under the law(s) that apply. If the Chicago Ordinance applies, then the Illinois Act and likely Cook County Ordinance will not—though Cook County has yet to release guidance on the interaction between the laws. If the Cook County Ordinance applies, then the Illinois Act will not.

Consider Safe Harbors: If the Illinois Act or Cook County Ordinance applies, consider whether your current policy satisfies an important safe harbor contained in both of those laws. Under both laws, if an employer has an existing policy that meets or exceeds the minimum amount of leave required and your employees can take that leave for any reason, the employer need not modify the terms of its existing policy. This safe harbor will likely obviate the need for employers to fulfill other burdensome obligations contained in both laws.

If your policy does not currently qualify for this safe harbor, consider promptly updating the policy so that it does. You should do so before the effective date of the respective laws: on or before December 31, 2023, for the Illinois Act, and on or before December 30, 2023, for the Cook County Ordinance. Fox Swibel stands ready to assist you in reviewing / updating your policies to meet these objectives.

Revise Policies as Necessary and Post Required Notices: After analyzing which law applies and whether updates to policies are required (to comply with safe harbor provisions or otherwise), employers should revise their policies as necessary. Employers with some employees subject to one law (such as the Illinois Act) and others to a different law (such as the Cook County or Chicago ordinances) can consider addressing this complication through jurisdiction-specific addenda to their policies. Employers should also, of course, post any required notices when they become available.

Train Personnel: Train human resources staff and other personnel on the new obligations. Besides the basics noted above, all three laws contain various other obligations, and the precise obligations may also depend on how the employer chooses to comply with the law (e.g., via accrual or frontloading). It is important that human resources personnel understand the applicable requirements both to minimize the risk of litigation and to address questions that employees may have in the coming year.

Stay Tuned: The Illinois Department of Labor and its Chicago and Cook County counterparts will likely release additional guidance on these laws in the coming weeks and months (indeed, the municipalities may amend the ordinance(s)). The guidance and any amendments should clarify various ambiguities in the laws and potentially impose new obligations on employers.

Fox Swibel will continue to follow developments closely regarding these three laws and can be reached at any time. Please contact Steve BrennemanKelly Smith Haley, David Levine, or the Fox Swibel attorney with whom you regularly work to address these issues.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.

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