Sick leave requirement approved, but towns can opt out

Updated 10/5/2016 4:31 PM

The Cook County Board approved an ordinance Wednesday to gives many workers throughout the county at least five paid sick days a year.

But the ordinance -- which already didn't apply to government employees, railroad workers and some union laborers -- can be ignored by business owners if suburbs opt out of the requirement, according to an opinion by the Cook County state's attorney's office.


The ordinance is similar to Chicago's paid sick leave ordinance but contains some minor tweaks. The board voted 11-4-1 with all four suburban Republican commissioners opposing the initiative and one commissioner abstaining.

Some commissioners were concerned that since municipalities can opt out of the ordinance, businesses located in unincorporated areas will be at a disadvantage.

"I haven't had one village in my district in favor of this paid sick leave bill, none of the chambers of commerce and none of my not-for-profits," said Commissioner Tim Schneider, a Bartlett Republican. "In fact, a large YMCA said it was going to cost them $228,000 next year, but somehow this board knows better than all the village managers, heads of not-for-profits and business owners."

Essentially, employees who work at least 80 hours over a 120-day period would be eligible to accrue one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, according to the ordinance.

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The ordinance is intended to assist those in part-time, low-wage positions working without contracts or other benefits. Several union leaders and worker advocacy groups spoke in favor of the ordinance Wednesday.

But several business owners and heads of chambers of commerce spoke against it.

Charles Martin, who owns Culver's restaurant franchises in Mount Prospect and several other suburbs, complained the mandate put businesses in Cook County at a disadvantage.

"Ultimately, this is a tax," Martin said. "We should create an environment that is more conducive to welcoming businesses into Cook County, not making it harder to do business here."

The ordinance goes into effect in July 2017.

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