Suburbs call Cook County sick leave law 'complete overreach,' prepare to opt out

  • The Cook County Board approved an ordinance Wednesday that mandates most private employers throughout the county offer at least five days of paid sick leave a year to all employees. Several suburban governments already are working on efforts to opt out of the mandate.

    The Cook County Board approved an ordinance Wednesday that mandates most private employers throughout the county offer at least five days of paid sick leave a year to all employees. Several suburban governments already are working on efforts to opt out of the mandate.

 
 
Updated 10/11/2016 12:36 PM
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the list of suburbs currently drafting resolutions to override the county's paid sick leave ordinance.

Calling it a "complete overreach" by the Cook County Board, Palatine officials are wasting little time in passing a resolution that will exempt local businesses from the county's new paid sick leave policy for all employees.

Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen said he expects the board will vote on the measure at its first meeting in November.

 

"It's important to send a strong message to our business community that we want a fair playing field," he said.

The county board approved the ordinance Wednesday, with four suburban Republican commissioners voting against the bill that mandates most private employers throughout the county offer at least five days of paid sick leave a year to all employees.

Officials in Barrington and Mount Prospect also said they are working on resolutions that would overturn the county's policy. The new ordinance takes effect in July 2017.

Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said the county ordinance was poorly conceived since it "creates an uneven playing field between similar business that are on opposite sides of the county line within the same community."

Many suburban business owners blasted the ordinance ahead of the vote, saying it would slow economic development and push existing businesses out of the county.

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Proponents of the bill argue that employers should want to offer the benefit to attract and retain the best workers. Supporters also argue that paid sick leave is important to keep ill workers from spreading disease. They complain that without the benefit, workers will show up sick to avoid the risk of losing their jobs and put customers and other employees at risk.

The ordinance essentially mirrors a similar law in Chicago. However, it might not have much of an effect. An opinion from the Cook County state's attorney's office suggests that not only can municipalities opt out by simply passing an ordinance, but the county also might not have had the authority to institute the policy in the first place.

In a July 22 memo, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Donald Pechous wrote to Commissioner Sean Morrison, "Our legal conclusion is that Cook County lacks the home rule authority to enact a paid leave mandate for employers whether countywide or within unincorporated Cook County."

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