Employers with Illinois employees should be aware of the new Cook County ordinance (“Ordinance”) that requires paid time off for time spent getting vaccinated. The ordinance covers all of Cook County, which includes the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago previously enacted a vaccine anti-retaliation ordinance which required employers to permit employees access to vaccination during work hours.

Which Employers are Covered by the Ordinance?

The Ordinance covers all private entities that employ at least one person and have a principal place of business within Cook County or do business within the County.

Who is Protected by the Ordinance?

The Ordinance appears to apply to any employee working within Cook County. However, the Ordinance does not expressly limit its coverage, and it leaves unclear whether the Ordinance also applies to employees located outside Cook County for employers that are otherwise covered. Employers are encouraged to consult with their employment counsel regarding this uncertainty.

Does the Ordinance Require Employers to Provide Paid Leave?

If the employer implements a vaccination mandate then the employee must receive compensation for up to four hours. Otherwise, the Ordinance does not require pay for employee vaccination time when vaccination is not mandated by the employer. In that scenario, the employee would only be allowed to use any accrued, unused, and available sick time or PTO for the purpose of receiving a vaccine.

What if an Employer Implements a Vaccination Mandate?

The Ordinance states that when the employer mandates vaccination, employees must receive compensation at the regular rate of pay for the time it takes to attend a vaccination appointment during a shift, up to four hours per vaccination dose.  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 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.

What are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?

The Ordinance provides for the Cook County Commission on Human Rights to investigate alleged violations of the Ordinance. Penalties include actual damages including back pay, fines between $100 and $500 for each offense, attorney’s fees, and non-monetary damages.

How long is the Ordinance in Effect?

The Ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2021 and remains in effect until the Director of the Cook County Public Health Department determines in writing that the public health threat due by COVID-19 has reduced to the level that the Ordinance can be repealed.  

Employer Considerations

Covered 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. Employers with mandatory vaccination policies applicable to employees in Cook County (and possible elsewhere) should evaluate existing policies to ensure compliance.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2021 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lizet Ramirez – Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.