Most part-time workers in Cook County will begin to amass sick time as of next summer.
The Cook County Board Oct. 5 overwhelmingly passed an ordinance that requires most employers in the county to let part-time workers accrue sick time as of July. The move follows Chicago’s passing of a sick-time ordinance this summer.
Now, both suburban and city residents are covered by rules mandating sick time for part-time workers.
“Right now, there are 420,000 workers just in suburban Cook County who receive no paid sick time,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer, one of the sponsors of the legislation. “That adds to about 450,000 workers in Chicago that are covered now by the Earned Sick Time Ordinance. I think it belies the fact that our economy has evolved and changed. Even in our lifetimes, we’ve seen that it used to be standard to get a package that included the ability to take a day off and not worry about being able to meet your rent or send your kids sick to school.”
The county regulation calls for part-time workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked and that a worker has to put in 140 hours before being allowed to take any sick time. Gainer noted that most part-time workers would not be able to take a sick day until putting in four months of work.
“Sick days aren’t only for people with office jobs or work for big companies,” Gainer added. “Everybody gets sick. Everybody has families; and everybody a couple times in a year needs some margin for error.”
County commissioners voted 11-4-1 as members of the county’s Finance Committee to approve the sick time ordinance.
Voting in favor of the legislation were: Commissioners Luis Arroyo Jr., Richard Boykin, Jerry Butler, John Daley, John Fritchey, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Debora Sims, Robert Steele, Larry Suffredin, Jeff Tobolski and Gainer.
In opposition to the measure were: Commissioners Gregg Goslin, Sean Morrison, Pete Silvestri and Tim Schneider.
Commissioner Stanley Moore voted “present.”
Garcia noted that the county is not on trailblazing ground with the ordinance, citing that five states and more than 20 counties and municipalities have similar laws already in place.
“These policies have been shown to be successful,” Garcia said. “A recent study of employers in New York — which passed similar legislation in 2013 — revealed that 86 percent of employers surveyed expressed support for earned sick leave.”
Morrison said as written, the regulation “will place a tremendous burden on small business.”
He said the extra money small business owners will have to pay in overtime for people covering for other workers out on sick time will be another incentive in areas bordering other counties to move their shop.
“I think that this is just bad policy,” Morrison said.
He pointed out there have been eight ordinances enacted by the county in the past year that are now being tried in court. Morrison expects that the sick time ordinance will be the ninth, saying the county does not have the legal authority to impose such regulations.
In nearly 90 minutes of public testimony, proponents and opponents of the measure voiced their views to the county’s Finance Committee.
Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, who chaired the city’s commission that examined the sick time issue for workers within Chicago’s boundaries, said that the county ordinance was a great step and one that needed to be done.
“It’s not many times as public officials that we get to pass something and have a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable,” Pawar said. “It is a very basic benefit that most of us who wear shirts and ties or are salaried employees take for granted.”
Charles Martin, the owner of five Culver’s locations — three in Cook County — said the sick time requirement is just one more reason to put future restaurants outside of Cook.
“It is not incentive in any way for me to want to continue to do business in Cook County,” Martin said. “… You’re creating an atmosphere that is more and more difficult for businesses to operate effectively in this county.
“The real estate taxes are astronomical and I’m not overstating that. I pay $80,000 in my Cook County locations. I pay less than $40,000 in my non-Cook County locations. You need to create an environment that is more conducive to welcoming businesses into your county. You want people creating jobs. You want people to provide good environments to their employees … Ultimately, this is a tax. The businesses that can’t afford it, they’re going to have to cut staff. They are going to have to raise prices.”
— Suburban Cook County workers getting sick time —