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Draft Regulations on Cook County, Illinois, Paid Sick Leave Released

By Kathryn Montgomery Moran, Jody Kahn Mason and Matthew M. Brown
  • May 17, 2017

Draft regulations that will govern its interpretation and enforcement of the Cook County “Earned Sick Leave” Ordinance have been released by the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The final regulations will be adopted by June 1, 2017, according to the Commission.

The Ordinance, which becomes law effective July 1, 2017, mandates that employers in Cook County, Illinois allow eligible employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in each 12-month period of their employment. (For details of the Ordinance, see our article, Cook County, Illinois, Enacts Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.)

Following are highlights of the draft regulations.

Employers may define the “accrual period.”

Under the Ordinance, the accrual period appears to begin on July 1, 2017, or an individual’s date of employment. The draft regulations clearly state that an employer may define an accrual period that is consistent with its benefit year (a uniform, 12-month period the employer regularly uses for granting and tracking benefits, such as paid time off).

Employee must be eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act to qualify for Ordinance’s FMLA-restricted earned sick leave.

The proposed regulations clarify that, in order for an employee to be eligible for the Ordinance’s FMLA-restricted sick leave, the employee must work for an FMLA-eligible employer and be eligible for FMLA leave. To be eligible for FMLA leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year, have worked 1,250 hours in the past year, and have worked at a facility with at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Recognizing many municipalities have opted out of the Ordinance.

The proposed regulations appear to recognize municipalities’ right to opt out of the Ordinance. Thus far, at least 32 municipalities in Cook County have opted out (or are considering opting out):

  1. Arlington Heights
  2. Barrington
  3. Bartlett
  4. Bedford Park
  5. Burr Ridge
  6. Des Plaines
  7. Elk Grove Village
  8. Elmwood Park
  9. Evergreen Park
  10. Glenview
  11. Hanover Park
  12. Hickory Hill
  13. Hoffman Estates
  14. Lynwood
  15. Mount Prospect
  16. Norridge
  17. Oak Forest
  18. Oak Lawn
  19. Orland Park
  20. Palatine
  21. Palos Heights
  22. Palos Park
  23. River Forest
  24. Riverside
  25. Rolling Meadows
  26. Rosemont
  27. Schaumburg
  28. South Barrington
  29. Streamwood
  30. Tinley Park
  31. Western Springs
  32. Wheeling

Employees working in municipalities that opted out of the Ordinance still may be covered.

The proposed regulations make clear, however, that even if a company is located exclusively in a municipality that has opted out of the Ordinance, the Ordinance still could apply to that company’s employees if its employees perform compensated work at a location in a Cook County municipality that has not opted out. For example, the regulations state that, for the purpose of determining who is a “Covered Employee” under the Ordinance, the time an individual spends performing compensated work at the individual’s residence or any other location that is physically in Cook County will be considered, if the employer requires or permits the individual to work at that location.

Employers are not required to allow accrual for time working outside Cook County or in municipalities that opted out.

Under the draft regulations, employees will not accrue paid sick leave for time spent working outside of Cook County or within the boundaries of a municipality that has opted out of the Ordinance.

Employers may be covered even if they do not have a place of business in Cook County.

If an employer does not have a place of business within Cook County, but requires or permits one or more employees to telecommute from Cook County, then the employer may be a “Covered Employer” under the draft regulations.

“Front load” paid sick leave as alternative to accrual.

Under the draft regulations, an employer may front load paid sick leave and still comply with the Ordinance if the employer provides covered employees the maximum amount of earned sick leave the employee could accrue during the relevant accrual period.

Employers may not limit how an employee can provide notice of a foreseeable absence.

The draft regulations expressly state that an employer may not prohibit an employee from using phone, email, or text messaging to provide the required notice of a foreseeable absence.

Pre-existing paid time off policies may satisfy an employer’s obligations.

An employer is not required to use the same terminology used under the Ordinance to describe paid leave benefits to satisfy its obligations. In order to satisfy the employer’s obligations, however, the paid time off policy must comply with the Ordinance’s specific requirements, including its notification requirements and the requirement that no discipline be issued for the absences.


Employers with operations in Cook County, Illinois, should review the Ordinance, together with the draft regulations, and their policies and practices related to paid sick leave carefully and prepare to finalize and distribute to employees their policies after the final regulations are adopted by Cook County. Chicago has a sick leave similar ordinance and is expected to release its guidance soon.

Please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you work if you have any questions about the ordinances or the Cook County draft regulations.

©2017 Jackson Lewis P.C. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Jackson Lewis and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Jackson Lewis.

This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Jackson Lewis P.C. represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation. Our attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information, please contact the attorney(s) listed or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work.

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