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Northbrook opts in to Cook County paid sick leave ordinance, more uncertainty for employers, lawyer says

Monday, October 29, 2018
Cook County Record
by Gabriel Neves

Northbrook opts in to Cook County paid sick leave ordinance, more uncertainty for employers, lawyer says


By Gabriel Neves | Oct 29, 2018

CHICAGO – The village of Northbrook has become the most-recent municipality in Cook County to opt back in to a Cook County ordinance requiring employers in the community, and whose employees work in the community, to provide paid sick leave. And that decision could provide more confusion and burdens for employers in Cook County, says an attorney who specializes in labor law issues.

Earlier this month, Northbrook joined a growing list of communinities in suburban Cook County that have reversed earlier decisions, and decided to allow their employers to come under the regulation of Cook County's ordinance requiring them to provide eligible employes with an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

In addition to Northbrook, Western Springs also decided to opt back in to the county ordinance earlier this year.

The reversals come only months after those communities had initially joined a stream of Cook County suburbs voting to shield their employers from that new Cook County labor rule, among others, by voting to "opt out" of the ordinance, as allowed to them under Illinois law.

Jody Kahn Mason Jackson Lewis P.C.

Elsewhere in the county, the village of Wilmette had also reconsidered its prior decision to opt-out, but decided instead to give its residents the chance to vote on the question on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Attorney Jody Kahn Mason of Jackson Lewis PC in Chicago said those back-and-forth decisions are creating uncertainty with local employers.

Northbrook's decision, she said, "has created additional uncertainty for employers and will require employers in Northbrook to spend additional time and resources to ensure compliance."

Mason said Northbrook, among others, had initially opted out because they "felt that the requirements of the ordinance were too onerous and administratively burdensome for the employers in their communities."

But now, she said, those employers will again be subjected to those purported burdens.

"This means, in broad strokes, that: (1) employers with physical locations in Northbrook, or (2) employers with employees who conduct work in Northbrook, are now required to provide eligible employees up to 40 hours of paid sick leave during every 12-month period of their employment," Mason said.

As a result of the opt-in issue, Mason stated, "employers in Cook County are frustrated by the continuing uncertainty regarding the ordinance."

The ordinance issues are also affecting local employees.

"When individual municipalities change their position regarding whether they are opting out of the requirements of the ordinance, it causes employers in those municipalities to have to re-evaluate their policies and practices to ensure their compliance," Mason said. "This has become particularly burdensome for those employers with employees in multiple Cook County municipalities, some of which have opted out, while others have not."

As to a ripple effect on whether other municipalities would opt back in, Mason said it is "unclear" if other municipalities in the county would follow Northbrook's path.

She cited the example of Wilmette. Regarding the initiative on the ballot in that community, Mason said: "Even though the results of the referendum will not be binding, if voters overwhelmingly support the requirements of the ordinance, it may pressure local elected officials to reconsider their earlier decisions to opt out."

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