Mayor’s Claim that Chicago PSL Ordinance is “More Business Friendly” Questionable

Though not without dispute, Chicago is called the windy city not because of the gusts blowing off Lake Michigan but “because of the hot air bellowing from politicians,” according to the New York Times.  That is why when I saw the Chicago mayor proclaim in a press release that the city’s recently-enacted paid-sick-leave-ordinance is “more business friendly than sick leave ordinances adopted by other cities,” it caught my attention. Is that true or is it more “hot air bellowing from politicians”?

There are more than 30 PSL laws nationwide. Let’s review some of the key provisions of the Chicago ordinance to see if they are “more business friendly” than other PSL ordinances, less business friendly, or neither more nor less business friendly, but typical or within the typical range.

  1. “Family member” definition. In every PSL ordinance, PSL can be used to care for a “family member.” Included in Chicago’s definition of “family member” is an individual “whose close association with the Employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Only two other city PSL ordinances have a similar open-ended definition of “family member.” This provision is LESS BUSINESS FRIENDLY.
  1. Pay for unused PSL upon termination is not required in Chicago. None of the PSL ordinances require pay upon termination. This is TYPICAL.
  1. Chicago’s rate of accrual of PSL is one hour for every 40 hours worked, the same as Philadelphia, Tacoma, Seattle (for employers with less than 250 employees) and Connecticut. While most PSL ordinances have a one per 30 accrual rate, one per 40 is within the TYPICAL range.
  1. Chicago’s accrual cap is 40 hours within 12 months. The vast majority of PSL ordinances have this 40 hour cap. Some have smaller caps for smaller employers; a few, primarily in California, have larger caps. Chicago’s is within the TYPICAL range.
  1. Chicago allows an employee to carry over half of his or her unused accrued PSL (up to 20 hours) except that if the employer is covered by the FMLA (generally, 50 employees within 75 miles), an employee may carryover an additional 40 hours of PSL. The norm is a carryover of up to 40 hours. Here also, a handful allow more than 40, a few less. Few allow a carryover of up to 60 hours, as Chicago does. Since 20 is MORE BUSINESS FRIENDLY but 60 is LESS BUSINESS FRIENDLY, we will call this one a draw.
  1. Chicago employers can require employees to work up to 180 days prior to using PSL. The norm is 90 days. While Tacoma and Seattle also have 180 day requirements, this provision is MORE BUSINESS FRIENDLY.
  2. Chicago requires employees to give 7 days’ notice to the employer if the need to use     PSL is reasonably foreseeable and “as soon as practicable” if the need is unforeseeable. This is in the TYPICAL range for notice.
  1. Chicago allows an employer to require an employee to provide medical certification to establish that the absences were for reasons covered by the PSL ordinance when an employee is absent “for more than three consecutive work days.” PSL ordinances typically allow an employer to obtain medical certification when an employee is absent either three consecutive work days or more than three consecutive workdays. Chicago’s provision is in the TYPICAL range.
  1. Chicago’s ordinance establishes minimum PSL requirements and does not affect “the applicability of any other law, regulation, requirement, policy, or standard that provides for greater [PSL] benefits. This is TYPICAL.
  1. Chicago’s enforcement mechanism provides that an employee may bring a PSL claim in court and, if successful, may recover “three times the amount of unpaid sick time denied or lost by reason of the violation.” Treble damages is not the norm and is LESS BUSINESS FRIENDLY.

Tallying the score, 6 provisions are “typical,” 2 are “less business friendly” and one is “more business friendly.”  Welcome to the Windy City!