New Earned Sick Leave Policy (Cook County)


An upcoming change may affect your current and/or future employment or hiring practices! The Cook County Board passed a paid sick leave ordinance that requires most employers in Cook County to provide paid sick leave for their employees. It will take effect on 07/01/2017 and mirrors the requirements of the City of Chicago paid sick leave ordinance passed earlier this year.

Read ahead to learn more about this ordinance, or click here to download this information as a PDF.

What does this ordinance do?

Covered employers will need to provide eligible employees up to 40 hours (5 work days) of paid sick leave within a 12-month period. These 12-month periods begin as soon as the employee begins employment, or 07/01/2017, whichever occurs later.

Which employees are eligible?

To qualify, an employee must work at least 80 hours, regardless of location, for a covered employer within a 120-day period. This requirement for eligibility is satisfied by work performed at any location (within or outside of Cook County) and during any 120-day period following the employee's start of employment.

An employee may become Eligible before or after becoming a Covered Employee. Eligible Employees cannot use their accrued Earned Sick Leave until they also become a Covered Employee. An Eligible Employee's ability to use their accrued Earned Sick Leave may also be delayed beyond his or her Date of Eligibility if the Covered Employer has established a longer Use Waiting Period that has not yet expired.


A Covered Employer is any individual, group of persons or entity that employs at least one (1) "Covered Employee," and has its principal place of business within Cook County.

A Covered Employee is any individual who performs at least two (2) hours of work for a company within Cook County during any two-week period, including time the employee is paid while they are traveling within Cook County for business purposes (deliveries, sales calls, service calls, etc).

Covered Employers must extend the benefit of this Ordinance to all Covered Employees without regard to immigration status.

Exempt Employees

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Commission will not consider an individual to be a Covered Employee under the following conditions:

  1. The individual is an employee working in the construction industry and is covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement.
  2. The individual is an employee covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement that was entered prior to July 1, 2017 and remains in effect after July 1, 2017.
  3. The individual is an employee who has waived his or her rights under the Ordinance pursuant to a bona fide collective bargaining agreement entered prior to July 1, 2017.
  4. Federal or State Law preempts the individual from being covered by the Ordinance.
  5. The individual is an independent contractor; however, labeling an employee as an “independent contractor” will not defeat an employee’s rights under the Ordinance.

Compensation & Benefits

Earned Sick Leave is compensated at the same rate of pay that a Covered Employee earns for regular work for a Covered Employer. A Covered Employer is not required to compensate a Covered Employee at any elevated rate of pay during Earned Sick Leave, including a Covered Employee’s overtime or similar rate of pay.

If a Covered Employer would compensate a Covered Employee for regular work with any additional benefits, including but not limited to the accrual of paid leave, seniority or health benefits, a Covered Employer will compensate a Covered Employee using Earned Sick Leave with such additional benefits in the same manner and to the same extent as if he or she had performed regular work instead.

Without Adverse Employment Consequences

Earned Sick Leave includes the entitlement to take such leave free from adverse employment consequences that would not have occurred if the Covered Employee had not taken the leave. The Ordinance does not insulate a Covered Employee from adverse employment actions that are unrelated to the exercise of rights established or protected by the Ordinance, including poor work performance, unexcused absenteeism and other failures to meet a Covered Employer’s reasonable expectations.


Beginning on the Date of Initial Accrual, a Covered Employee starts accruing Earned Sick Leave based on work for a Covered Employer that is performed within the geographic boundaries of Cook County. This Date of Initial Accrual may pre-date the Date of Coverage or the Date of Eligibility. Accrual of paid sick leave for an eligible employee is capped at 40 hours of paid sick leave in each 12-month period, which is calculated from the beginning of either the 1st calendar day after the start of the employee’s employment or July 1, 2017, whichever is later. Employees will accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. For employees who are exempt from overtime requirements, the ordinance assumes a 40-hour work week; however, if the exempt employee works less, the accrual will be based on the employee’s normal week.

The Commission will not require that a Covered Employer award Earned Sick Leave to a Covered Employee for, or on the basis of, work performed outside of Cook County or within the geographic boundaries of a municipality that has lawfully preempted the Ordinance.


The earned sick leave time may be used for recovering from illness or injury, medical treatment, diagnosis or preventative care for the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, including step and foster relationships, and “anyone whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” It may also be used for matters related to domestic violence or sexual assault; and, when an employee must care for a child due to a public health emergency closure related to the child’s school or care facility.

An employee must be able to start using earned sick leave by at least the 180th day following his/ her first day of employment. All eligible employees can carry over up to 20 hours of their unused paid sick leave to the next 12-month period. If an employee is also eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the employee can carry over the standard 20 hours, plus up to 40 hours of his/her unused sick leave to use exclusively for FMLA purposes. This means that an employer has a potential burden of providing 60 paid sick leave hours in a 12-month period!

If an employee’s sick leave absence is 3 or more consecutive work days, an employer may also require employees to provide certification or documentation to support the reason for the leave.

Unlike earned vacation, there is no payout requirement for earned but unused paid sick leave time upon separation from employment.

Existing Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy

If an employer has an existing PTO policy that grants covered employees paid leave “in an amount and manner” that meets the ordinance’s requirements, the employer is not required to provide additional paid leave. However, a broad reading of this language suggests that even if you have a PTO policy that provides for at least 5 days’ leave, you must ensure that how the leave can be used and carry over minimum requirements are up to par.

If an employer’s PTO policy provides a full bank of 40 hours immediately upon eligibility (versus an accrual system), then the employer must provide each covered employee at least 40 hours of PTO within one calendar year of his/her date of eligibility. In other words, regardless of the accrual rules, the covered employee must get to use at least 40 hours of paid sick leave within each 12-month period.

Posting & Notice Requirements

Employers will be required to issue written notice to new employees and display a poster notifying employees of their rights under the ordinance. The notice and poster will be created and made available by the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. Employers that do not maintain a business facility within geographic boundaries of the County are exempt from this subsection.