By Sara Fowler
Seyfarth Synopsis: On April 21, 2021, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting retaliation against any employee who takes leave from work to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and requiring any employer that mandates its employees receive the vaccine to provide up to four hours of paid time off per dose.
Effective April 21, 2021, Chicago workers may take time off of work to receive a COVID-19 vaccine without fear of reprisal, pursuant to the City’s “Vaccine Anti-Retaliation Ordinance.” The Ordinance applies to individuals who perform work for an employer of any size, including work as an employee or as an independent contractor. The Ordinance has three key features:
- It prohibits any adverse action against a worker who takes off of work to get a COVID-19 vaccine. This applies even if a worker is voluntarily getting the vaccine. Further, employers cannot require that workers get vaccinated outside of their non-work hours.
- If an employer requires workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine, then the employer must provide paid leave to workers who get vaccinated during work hours. It requires compensation, up to four hours of paid time off per vaccination dose, at the worker’s regular rate of pay. Employers cannot require the worker to use other accrued and available paid time off, including sick leave.
- Workers must otherwise be allowed to use accrued and available paid time off for time spent getting the vaccine. This would apply when a worker is voluntarily getting vaccinated (e., not because of a work requirement, as described above). The Ordinance states that employers must allow such time off to be used upon a worker’s request, suggesting that workers may — but are not required — to use their paid time off for this reason.
Employers who are found to have engaged in retaliation in violation of the Ordinance may be held liable for monetary fines between $1,000 and $5,000. In addition, any worker who is subject to violations of the Ordinance may be eligible for reinstatement through a civil action, damages equal to triple their lost wages, actual damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Chicago employers should ensure that managers and human resources professionals are aware of this new requirement, and modify any attendance or time off policies as needed to make sure that workers are not subject to discipline or other adverse consequences for taking time off to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. Workers should be informed of their right to use accrued and available paid time off if they seek time off of work to get a vaccine.