Chicago Passes COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance

When COVID first hit, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA provided all kinds of protections for employees, including paid and protected leave for those diagnosed, quarantining and/or caring for someone diagnosed or quarantining for COVID. Unfortunately, the FFCRA expired in December of 2020 and Congress did not bother to renew many of its protections.  Since then, many employees needing Covid-related leave have been left largely unprotected.  Remember, the FMLA only applies to those who work for employers with fifty or more employees in a 75-mile radius.  This leaves many employees without protections if they are sick or caring for someone who is ill.

The City of Chicago, however, foresaw this problem and passed the Anti-retaliation Ordinance. This law protects employees from termination or other adverse action if they contract COVID, had a close contact with a Covid + person and/or are unable to come to work because of a COVID diagnosis or because of caring for someone with a COVID diagnosis.

Are you covered?

A Covered employee, subject to limited exceptions, is defined as any employee who completes at least two hours of compensable work in the City of Chicago during any given two-week period.

A Covered employer is defined as any individual, group, or entity who employs at least one covered employee and maintains a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the City of Chicago and/or is subject to one or more of Chicago’s licensing requirements.
Practically speaking, nearly every employee within the city limits of Chicago will be protected by this.

What is Prohibited?

Covered employers are prohibited from taking unfavorable actions against employees who obey a public health order issued by the mayor of Chicago, the governor of Illinois, the Chicago Department of Public Health, or in some cases, a treating healthcare provider. Those types of orders include but are not limited to stay-at-home and quarantine orders.
Unlike the FFCRA which expired during an ongoing need, the Chicago ordinance remains in effect until the commissioner of Public Health determines that the threat posed by COVID-19 has diminished to the extent that the ordinance can be safely repealed.

Potential Employer Liability

A covered employer who violates the ordinance is subject to legal action brought by the commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection in an administrative hearing or a court of Law. Even more exciting, covered employees who suffer an adverse employment action may bring a civil suit in court against their employer for (i) reinstatement; (ii) treble (tridamages; (iii) other actual damages; and (iv) reasonable attorneys’ costs and fees. This means that violating this ordinance could be quite expensive for an employer.

Case + Sedey will continue to address and update significant challenges and changes regarding navigation of the COVID -19 pandemic and its impact on workers.