On April 21, 2021, the City Council of Chicago passed a COVID-19 Vaccination Rights Ordinance (“Ordinance”) that allows workers in Chicago – including independent contractors — to get vaccinated during their work hours, requires pay for hours taken to get vaccinated from employers that make vaccination mandatory, and prohibits retaliation for taking time during a shift to get vaccinated.
Which Employers are Covered by the Ordinance?
The Ordinance applies broadly to all employers who “engage the service of at least one individual for payment” in the City of Chicago. This includes employers that engage independent contractors.
Who is Protected by the Ordinance?
All Chicago workers. The Ordinance defines “worker” to mean an individual that performs work for an employer, including as an employee or as an independent contractor.
Does the Ordinance Require Employers to Provide Paid Leave?
As a general matter, the Ordinance does not create a separate paid leave obligation for employers, but instead creates an affirmative right for workers that voluntarily wish to get a vaccine to be able to do so during work hours and use any paid leave that they may have access to for that purpose. For example, if a worker has paid sick leave or other accrued paid time off and requests to use that paid leave to obtain a vaccine, then an employer must allow the worker to use such paid leave for receipt of the Covid-19 vaccination. On the other hand, paid time off will be required for employers who mandate vaccination. See below for more details.
What if an Employer Implements a Vaccination Mandate?
Employers that mandate that their workers receive Covid-19 vaccination must compensate workers for the time spent obtaining the Covid-19 vaccination, up to a maximum of four hours per dose, at their regular rate of pay. An employer that requires its workers to receive vaccinations cannot require that the worker use existing paid sick leave or other paid time off for the time incurred by the worker to receive the vaccination; the employer must provide this leave in addition to existing leave.
Is there a Notice or Notice Posting Requirement?
There are no notice or posting requirements for employers under the Ordinance. The Ordinance also does not lay out requirements on how much advance notice a worker must provide before their absence nor what documentation, if any, can be required from a worker to verify their need for vaccination time off.
However, the Ordinance grants the city commissioner of public health authority to develop rules necessary to implement the Ordinance and we anticipate additional guidance, which may include notices and documentation requirements for employers.
What are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?
The Ordinance provides workers a private right of action for Ordinance violations and may be entitled to damages and remedies including reinstatement, three times the amount of lost wages and attorneys fees. The Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection or the Director of Labor Standards can also pursue violations of the Ordinance in an administrative hearing or in a court of law. A violation of the Ordinance will also result in a fine between $1,000 and $5,000.
How long is the Ordinance in Effect?
The Ordinance went into effect on April 21, 2021 and will be automatically repealed when the Commissioner of Public Health makes a written determination that the threat to public health due to COVID-19 is diminished.
Chicago employers should consider adopting a written vaccination policy to ensure awareness among employees, HR personnel and managers and should consistently apply the policy for employees taking time off to obtain the vaccine.