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Cook County Adopts Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and Minimum Wage Increase

Following in the footsteps of the City of Chicago, Cook County, Ill. has now adopted two new ordinances providing for paid sick leave for all employees and an increase to the minimum wage for low income workers. With both ordinances effective July 1, 2017, employers will need to budget accordingly to minimize the financial impact these two new laws may have.

Paid Sick Leave

The Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance requires all employers with at least one employee to give employees sick leave, joining a flurry of jurisdictions adopting sick leave laws. The ordinance is available here.

Sick leave is paid time off available to an employee when the employee or a family member becomes sick or injured. Effective July 1, 2017, employees in Cook County will earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave per year, unless the employer sets a higher limit. If the employee has unused sick leave at the end of the year, then half of the leftover hours can carry over to the next year, up to a maximum of 20 hours. However, an employer need not pay unused sick leave when the employment ends. The rule includes part-time employees; to qualify, the employee must have worked at least 80 hours over any 120-day period.

Even if an employer’s existing policies place it in compliance with the new ordinance, the employer still has to post a notice advising its employees of their rights under the ordinance. An employer can be liable for three times the value of the unpaid leave, plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees, for wrongful denial of sick leave.

The new rules closely track a similar ordinance passed by the City of Chicago, also scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017. Many local jurisdictions have passed sick leave laws within the last year, including Spokane, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. Other cities, like Seattle and San Francisco, have strengthened their existing laws. Five states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont) already have some form of state sick leave law. Thus, although no federal law guarantees sick leave, employers should closely track the development of any sick leave laws in their jurisdictions.

Minimum Wage Increase

Cook County is gradually raising the minimum wage to $13/hr by July 2020 for non-tipped employees. The current minimum wage is $8.25/hr. The gradual increases will be as follows:


Minimum Wage Rate

July 1, 2017


July 1, 2018


July 1, 2019


July 1, 2020


Employers who are located in municipalities that are home-rule (those that have the authority under the Illinois Constitution to self-govern on matters of local interest) should keep a close eye on developments; efforts in some such jurisdictions are under way to attempt to circumvent this new law.

© 2022 ArentFox Schiff LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 305

About this Author

Lauren Novak Labor Law attorney, Schiff Hardin law firm, Chicago

Lauren S. Novak handles labor and employment law matters for clients in a diverse range of industries, including food and beverage, construction, gaming, manufacturing, outsourcing companies, educational institutions, and municipalities. Clients contact her to answer their day-to-day employment questions, review employee handbooks and employment policies, as well as to handle their more complex legal matters. Whether she is defending an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board, guiding employers through the union election process, or litigating a...