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Chicago Introduces Wage Theft and Paid Secure Leave Ordinances

On May 26, 2021, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a series of ordinances (the “Ordinances”) which seek to implement new wage theft protections and provide certain employees with the ability to take paid “secure leave.”  A copy of the Ordinances are available here.

First, the Ordinances would amend the Chicago Municipal Code to provide that any employer that fails to timely pay a “Covered Employee” in accordance with the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act will have committed “wage theft.”  A Covered Employee is any employee who performs at least two hours of work in any two-week period for an employer while physically present within the geographic boundaries of Chicago.  Wage theft is defined to include the non-payment of: (i) any wages required for work performed; (ii) paid time off, whether legislatively or contractually required; and (iii) contractually required benefits to a Covered Employee.

Employers that violate the wage theft ordinance would be liable to the Covered Employee for the amount of underpayments and for damages of either: (i) 2% of the amount of any such underpayments for each month following the date of payment during which such underpayments remain unpaid, or (ii) the amount set forth in section 115/14(a) of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, if the amount in the state law is greater.

Second, the Ordinances also seek to amend the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave law by renaming paid “sick leave” as paid “secure leave” and providing additional grounds for eligible employees to utilize such paid leave.  More specifically, an employee who works at least 80 hours for an employer within any 120-day period while physically present within the geographic boundaries of Chicago would be permitted to use paid secure leave for the following reasons:

  • For the purpose of receiving professional care, including preventive care, diagnosis, or treatment, for mental or behavioral issues, including substance use disorders;

  • If a member of the employee’s family is ill, injured, or ordered to quarantine, or to care for a family member receiving professional care, including preventive care, diagnosis, or treatment, for medical, mental, or behavioral issues, including substance use disorders;

  • If the employee, or a member of the employee’s family is the victim of trafficking in persons as defined in Section 10-9 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS § 5/10-9); or

  • If the employee obeys an order issued by the Mayor, the Governor of Illinois, the Chicago Department of Public Health, or a treating healthcare provider, requiring the employee to: (i) stay at home to minimize the transmission of a communicable disease; (ii) remain at home while experiencing symptoms or sick with a communicable disease; (iii) obey a quarantine order issued to the employee; or (iv) obey an isolation order issued to the employee.

If passed, the Wage Theft ordinance will become effective ten days after passage and publication, and the amendments to the Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave law will become effective on August 1, 2021.

Accordingly, employers with operations in Chicago should review their current policies and practices to prepare for these potential changes. We will continue to monitor and report on significant developments regarding the Ordinances.

© 2022 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 152
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About this Author

Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm
Partner

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

312-962-3545
Edward C. Young, Proskauer Rose, Harassment Lawyer, Labor Rights Attorney
Associate

Edward C. Young is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. He represents companies nationwide in a broad range of employment issues, including discrimination, retaliation and harassment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, as well as other federal and state employment statutes and various common law torts. In addition, Eddie represents employers in trade secret matters and challenges to the independent contractor status of workers.

...

312-962-3595
Dakota D. Treece Labor Lawyer Proskauer Rose :aw Firm
Associate

Dakota Treece is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation and Arbitration Group. She completed her law degree at the DePaul University College of Law. 

+1.312.962.3506
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