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Paid Sick Time and Benefits During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Paid Sick Time and Benefits During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Employers and employees in Chicago have questions about their rights and obligations during the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent Chicago Tribune article explains how some laws predating the pandemic will pertain to employers and employees. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also will be applicable to many employers and workers in Illinois.

In terms of new laws, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will take effect on April 1, 2020.

At that point, employers in Chicago will need to give employers two weeks of paid sick leave. The paid sick leave requirement applies to employers who cannot work due to COVID-19 symptoms. It also applies to employees who cannot work due to stay-home and quarantine orders. Accordingly, an employee who is considered non-essential can be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave. However, the amount of paid sick leave has a daily cap. Employees will not receive more than $510 per day under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Employers will be compensated for paid sick time on a dollar-per-dollar basis through tax credits. Employers will need to provide paid sick time to furloughed workers, but not to terminated workers.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act only applies to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Yet many Cook County businesses must allow employees to use any paid sick time already accrued, and employees in larger businesses in the City of Chicago may be able to use the sick hours they accrued pursuant to City and County of Cook laws.

Employers and employees should understand that a clear distinction exists between being furloughed and being terminated.

Furloughed employees remain employed but are not working due to lack of work. Although those employees will not work during the furlough period and will not be paid, they keep their job-related benefits. To be clear, furloughed employees still have health insurance provided by the employer. However, terminated workers do not keep their benefits. Accordingly, terminated workers will not have healthcare benefits through their employers. Some similarities exist between furloughed and terminated employees. In many cases, both furloughed and terminated employees can seek unemployment insurance benefits. If an employee is furloughed or terminated due to business closures because of the coronavirus, unemployment insurance is an option. However, if a Chicago employee is fired for misconduct, unemployment insurance benefits will not be possible.

As Chicago employment law attorney Arthur R. Ehrlich underscored, “employees should understand their rights and obligations during this unprecedented time.” As Chicago employment law attorney Jonathan Goldman explained, “both federal and state laws may exist to aid employees with paid sick time and other benefits.”