Starting 1/1/24, Most Illinois Employers Must Grant Employees Up to 40 Hours of Paid Leave "For Any Purpose"
On March 13, 2023, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Paid Leave For All Workers Act (the Act) into law. Illinois joins two other states, Cook County, and the City of Chicago in requiring employers to provide paid leave to their workforce.
Effective Jan. 1, 2024, the Act covers almost all private employers in the state and allows employees to avail themselves of up to 40 hours of paid leave each year “for any purpose.” While the Act contains many nuances - making it advisable to consult with an employment attorney when establishing or modifying leave policies to comply with the Act - here are the basics you need to know to prepare your company for this significant change in the law.
Employers Covered Under The Act
The Act applies to almost all private employers in Illinois, regardless of size, as well as state and local governments. Notably, the Act also includes domestic workers in its definition of “employees” who are entitled to paid leave. The following employers are exempt from the Act’s leave requirements:
- School districts organized under the School Code or park districts organized under the Park District Code.
- Certain railroad employees.
- Temporary college or university student employees
- Certain short-term employees of an institution of higher learning
- Employees in the construction industry or who work for a freight, parcel, or document delivery company and are covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
Effect On Cook County or Chicago Employers
Most employers in Cook County and Chicago are already obligated to provide employees with paid leave under the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance and Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, respectively.
The Act specifies that it does not apply to employers covered by a “municipal or county ordinance,” such as Chicago’s and Cook County’s, “that requires employers to give any form of paid leave to their employees, including paid sick leave or paid leave.” Accordingly, employers required to comply with those ordinances paid sick leave are not required to comply with the Act, and such employers do not need to provide employees with an additional 40 hours of paid leave. However, the Act does apply to employees who are not currently covered by those ordinances.
Amount, Accrual, and Use of Paid Leave
Employees covered under the Act will be entitled to earn and use up to a minimum of 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period, which may be any consecutive 12-month period the employer designates in writing at the time of the employee’s hiring.
Employees are eligible to begin taking leave 90 days after their employment begins or 90 days after Jan. 1, 2024, whichever is later. The Act contains detailed provisions regarding calculating hours, accrual, and payment upon termination of employment. All unused paid leave hours must carry-over, so no forefeiture is allowed, although the maximum number of hours is always capped at 40.
Employers who already provide their employees with paid vacation time may deduct any paid leave hours from their employees’ accrued and unused vacation time, which essentially folds those hours into what the employer is already offering. However, employers should be careful not to ignore the spcific provisions of the act, since in certain cases the leave hours will allow an employee to take paid time off even if they have not accrued vacation (or other PTO) under the employer’s normal policy.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Act is that employees can take paid leave
“for any reason of the employee's choosing.” Employees do not have to tell their employer what that reason is, nor can an employer require an employee to provide documentation or certification as proof or in support of the leave.
While an employer can’t ask why an employee is taking paid leave, it can require that an employee provide up to seven calendar days’ notice before taking paid leave if the need for the leave is foreseeable. If an employee’s use of paid leave is not foreseeable, the employee must provide notice as soon as it is practicable. An employer that requires notice of paid leave under this Act when the leave is not foreseeable must provide a written policy that contains procedures for the employee to provide notice.
Notice, Recordkeeping, Retaliation, and Penalties
The Act requires that employers conspicuously post a notice in the workplace advising employees of their rights under the Act and how to file a complaint alleging non-compliance with its provisions. Employers must also maintain records for at least three years reflecting each employee’s hours worked, the amount of paid leave accrued and taken, and any remaining paid leave balance.
As with most employment laws, the Act prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their rights under the Act or reporting alleged violations.
While the Act does not establish a private cause of action, employers who violate the Act face:
- Civil penalties of $500 for an initial posting violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation;
- General civil penalties of $2,500 for each violation (other than a posting violation);
- An Illinois Department of Labor complaint initiated by an employee, allowing them to recover for underpayment, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees and costs, as well as a penalty of $500 to $1,000.
As noted, these are only the fundamentals of the new law. Employers should consult with an employment law attorney to understand their specific obligations and establish or update their paid leave policies to ensure compliance before the Jan. 1, 2024 effective date. Please contact the employment law attorneys at Latimer LeVay Fyock for assistance.