• Erin Hegarty
    NOV 10, 2023

    City Council approves expanded paid leave for Chicago workers


    The City Council voted 36-12 on Thursday to expand paid leave for Chicago workers, granting workers five sick days and five paid time off days per year.

    While the proposal was tweaked several times since Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22) introduced it in July, the measure approved Thursday guarantees workers five sick days and five days of paid time off annually.     

    Related: Alderpeople give initial OK to paid leave expansion for Chicago workers    

    Since an initial vote on the ordinance was delayed early last week, sponsors created a carve out for businesses with less than 51 employees who will not be required to pay out accrued paid time off days to employees when they leave the company. Businesses with 51 to 100 employees will have a one-year phase-in period before they are required to pay out accrued time off to employees who leave. The payout requirement for paid time off days will be required off the bat for businesses with more than 100 employees.      

    Related: Vote on paid leave ordinance delayed as Black Caucus raises concerns, wants more time to review proposal      

    Under the latest version of the ordinance, employees would be able to roll over 10 days of sick time per year and up to two days of paid time off per year. 

    The proposal approved Thursday delays the ordinance’s enforcement through private right of action until Jan. 1, 2025. 

    Rodriguez on Thursday recounted childhood memories with his family that were afforded to him because his mother was able to take time off of work. 

    The measure “not only helps workers, it helps businesses,” Rodriguez said. “If COVID taught us anything, it’s that workers need days off. This can be a life or death issue.” 

    Paid time off is also a race and gender issue, Rodriguez said. 

    The legislation approved Thursday took a lot of thought and conversation, Ald. Nicole Lee (11) said. 

    “To be sure, there’s going to be an impact and a change period in all of this,” Lee said. “I’m really happy that there was compromise that was made, in particular, for small businesses.” 

    The change approved Thursday has “been a long time coming, and it’s going to be hard for some people because we just didn’t have it before,” Lee said. 

    Ald. Jason Ervin (28) said the expanded paid leave will help Chicagoans living in poverty have time to spend with their families.  

    Still, other alderpeople cautioned against provisions in the measure. 

    “The business community can only absorb so much at once,” Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) said, adding that he understands there is “enthusiasm” among alderpeople for Johnson’s agenda. “But we’re really piling on the business community right now.” 

    “There will be consequences for that, and especially in the border wards that share borders with the suburbs, we’re going to see a really pronounced impact there,” Reilly said. 

    Ald. Anthony Beale (9) said he thinks the city is constantly hitting businesses on the head while they’re trying to recover from the pandemic. 

    “We have to protect workers, yes, but we also have to protect the businesses that hired the workers,” Beale said. 

    Still, members of the public spoke in favor of the change during Thursday’s meeting.  

    “I ask you, is it too much to give workers the ability to take time off to take care of a sick family member?...to live a life worth living?” Ugo Okere, policy director for Raise the Floor Alliance, said during public comment on Thursday. 

    “City council, you have an opportunity to join workers on that mountaintop and bring Chicago forward,” Okere said. 

    “I have paid time off,” Mary Kay Devine, chief of staff of Women Employed said on Thursday. “I am able to go on field trips and volleyball games and concerts and science fairs and it is unimaginable that other mothers and fathers and guardians cannot even enjoy the fun time with their families at the risk of losing their jobs.” 

    While changes were proposed to be made to the proposal on the council floor during Thursday’s meeting, a majority of alderpeople decided they would instead discuss and make those changes in council committee later. 

    One of the proposed tweaks included adding a 30-day cure period for employers to fix alleged violations to the ordinance before an employee can start private cause of action “in order to allow good operators to make their employees whole in an amicable, efficient, and timely manner, as opposed to both the employer and employee going through the time, effort, and cost of a lawsuit.” 

    The City Council was scheduled to vote on the paid leave expansion on Tuesday, but Ald. Brendan Reilly (42), Ald. Anthony Beale (9) and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) deferred and published the proposal, delaying a vote on the measure until Thursday.   

    Related: City Council approves referendum question on raising real estate transfer tax, delays vote on expanded paid leave   

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