Advocates behind Wednesday’s introduction of a paid sick leave ordinancedescribed the move as a “baseline of decency” that will lift up close to half of private sector workers in Chicago currently working without leave: an estimated 400,000 employees. The measure has 40 sponsors and has been referred to the Committee on Workforce Development and Audit, chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s de facto floor leader, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40).

Its lead sponsors are new Economic, Capital, and Technology development chair Ald. Joe Moreno (1), Ald. Toni Foulkes (16), and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) co-chair of the Working Families Task Force.

Ald. Ed Burke (14) and Ald. Carrie Austin (34) both signed on as co-sponsors, but missing from the list are Ald. Brendan Reilly (42), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), and O’Connor.  

The ordinance amends the minimum wage chapter of the city’s municipal code. A covered employee who works at least 80 hours within any 120-day period shall be eligible for paid sick leave, capped at 40 hours per year. Leave would kick in after the 180th day of employment for new employees.

The ordinance would take effect 90 days after passage from the full City Council and would be enforced by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), led by Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek.

“Our country has a history of passing laws to protect worker health and safety. Getting sick or needing to care for family members is something that affects all of us. For these reasons, we must advance at least a minimum standard to ensure that everyone has access to earned sick time. This should not be left to individual employers, because some workers get good benefits and some get none,” the group Women Employed said in an FAQ distributed to reporters April 13. Anne Ladky, the group’s executive director, served as task force co-chair.

The ordinance already has some opponents in the business community, including the Chicagoland Chambers of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. Both were represented on the Working Families Task Force who helped draft recommendations to inform the ordinance. But the pair issued a minority report saying the recommendations hit businesses already reeling from the city’s minimum wage hike and hikes in the local sales tax and property taxes.

The Chambers’ Mike Reever told Aldertrack he wasn’t surprised to see their concerns “basically ignored” in the ordinance. “For example, there is no exemption for small businesses. The aldermen we talked to over the course of the past year all talked of the importance of local economic development, but this will have a cost impact on their local businesses. Throw in the first $588 million, of potentially multiple, City property tax increases, and it is enough to give pause to any potential entrepreneur or existing small business owner of how they are going to survive in Chicago’s current economic climate.”

The task force estimated implementing paid sick leave would lead to less than a 0.7-1.5% increase in labor costs for most employers. The Chambers and IRMA said “some of the data was not as recent as it could have been, and their cost model has biased assumptions.”

Provision Highlights:

  • “Covered Employee” means any Employee who, in any particular two-week period, performs at least two hours of work for an Employer while physically present within the geographic boundaries of the City (some exclusions apply for youth and transitional programs

  • Any Covered Employee who works at least 80 hours for an Employer within any 120-day period shall be eligible

  • For every 40 hours worked after a Covered Employee’s Paid Sick Leave begins to accrue, he or she shall accrue one hour of Paid Sick Leave. Paid Sick Leave shall accrue only in hourly increments. There shall be no fractional accruals.

  • For each Covered Employee, there shall be a cap of 40 hours on accrued Paid Sick Leave per 12-month period, unless his or her Employer selects a higher limit.

  • At the end of a Covered Employee’s 12-month accrual period, he or she shall be allowed to carry over to the following 12-month period half of his or her unused accrued Paid Sick Leave, up to a maximum of 20 hours.

  • If an Employer is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, each of the Employer’s Covered Employees shall be permitted, at the end of his or her 12-month Paid Sick Leave accrual period, to carry over up to forty hours of his or her unused accrued Paid Sick Leave to use exclusively for Family and Medical Leave Act eligible purposes

  • If an Employer has a paid-time-off (PTO) policy that grants Covered Employees paid time off in an amount and a manner that meets the requirements for Paid Sick Leave under this section, the Employer is not required to provide additional paid leave.

In a post-City Council press conference April 13, Mayor Emanuel didn’t give the ordinance a ringing endorsement, but said he supports the “thrust” of the reforms, and believes it should be pursued statewide, but “I don’t have any delusion that they are going to move on anything since nothing else is happening down in Springfield.”

Pawar told Aldertrack last week he expects the Mayor to be “very involved” with the ordinance going forward.