Latimer LeVay Fyock, LLCLatimer LeVay Fyock, LLC

Chicago Employers Face A Hefty Shot of Consequences If They Don't Accommodate Workers Getting Their COVID-19 Vaccinations

The City of Chicago recently added another arrow to its quiver of efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations; this one aimed squarely at employers in the city. An ordinance passed on April 20, 2021 and effective as of that date prohibits employers from either requiring employees to schedule their vaccinations during their off-hours or retaliating against them for taking time during their workday to get their shots. Companies caught violating the ordinance face significant consequences and penalties.

The new ordinance applies to almost every employer and worker in the city, defining an “employer” as anyone who “engages the service of at least one individual for payment” and “worker” as “an individual that performs work for an employer, including as an employee or as an independent contractor.”

What Employers Can and Cannot Do Under The Ordinance Regarding Employee Vaccinations

If you have even just one person working for you in Chicago, here is what you need to know about the new vaccination ordinance:

  • Regardless of whether a worker voluntarily gets the vaccine or is required to do so by their employer, the employer may not require that they get vaccinated only during non-shift hours.
  • Employers cannot take adverse action against any worker for taking time during a shift to get a vaccine.
  • If a worker has accrued paid sick leave or paid time off and requests to use that time to get a vaccine, the employer must allow the worker to do so.
  • An employer that requires that a worker be vaccinated must compensate the worker for the time it takes to get their shots, up to four hours per dose, at the worker's regular pay rate if the vaccination appointment time is during a shift.
  • An employer that mandates employee vaccinations cannot require workers to use paid time off or paid sick leave to fund any hours missed to get vaccinated.
  • Any adverse action taken by an employer against a worker for taking time during a shift to get the COVID-19 is considered prohibited retaliation under Chapter 1-24 of the Municipal Code of Chicago.

Consequences For Violations

The city put some teeth behind its employee vaccination ordinance. Violators are not only subject to fines, but the ordinance also establishes a private right of action for employees who are on the receiving end of any violations. Specifically:

  • An employer that violates the ordinance is subject to fines of between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00.
  • A worker who has been subjected to a violation of this ordinance may recover in a civil action:
    • reinstatement to either the same position held before the retaliatory action or to an equivalent position
    • damages equal to three times the total amount of wages that would have been owed had the retaliatory action not taken place
    • any other actual damages directly caused by the retaliatory action, together with costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

Contact Latimer LeVay Fyock With Your Employment-Related Vaccination Questions

Vaccination policies and practices for business owners involve not only local ordinances like the one Chicago just passed, but also implicate several federal employment and anti-discrimination laws.  If you have questions or concerns about your obligations regarding COVID-19 vaccinations or any other COVID-19 employment issues, please reach out to your contact at Latimer LeVay Fyock.