Earlier this summer, the City of Chicago passed major labor initiatives to address how Covid-19 impacted workers and passed the Chi Biz Strong Initiative. As the population becomes increasingly vaccinated, the city is back to focusing on economic growth. Prior to the Coronavirus, labor organizations were fighting for raising the minimum wage. This current Chicago ordinance addresses that fight for justice and more gains in the rights of employees regarding sick leave. Both provisions should help curb the exploitation of labor in Chicago.
Stopping Wage-Theft and Protecting Employees
Prior to this ordinance, some unscrupulous employers were engaging in wage theft, which is when the owner of a business withholds the benefits of the operations from the workers. This could mean that the owners, shareholders, and other overseers are engaging in practices like underpaying their employees, denying them overtime pay, and other actions that harm their own workers. In this case, the wage-theft language largely refers to the criminally underpaid minimum wage workers who populate Chicago.
Ordinance O2021-2182 addresses the underpaid workers and orders that the minimum wage begins to rise to $15/hr. The minimum wage is due to increase in small increments over the next few years until it reaches $15 for most workers. For instance, for one class of workers, it should already be in effect as $15/hr as of July 1, 2020.
The goal of raising the minimum wage is that employees have more money and that corporations stop subsidizing their wealth with the exploitation of their workers. Grossly underpaying the workers also results in these same, fully employed individuals requiring welfare and government assistance to maintain a low standard of living. Under these conditions, it was too easy for employers to further harm the workers and outright deny them overtime pay, change their wages, and other types of chicanery. Employers are not allowed to tell their workers that they are indebted to them rather than pay out their earned wages. Next, the ordinance establishes a system of violations for employers and reprimands them by barring the business from participating in certain civic transactions. The business can also be fined $500 to further discourage such deceitful dealings.
Expanding Paid Sick Leave
The Coronavirus instigated a nightmare for the city when mass numbers of employees were unable to work due to factors beyond their control thanks to the deadly virus. For example, parents found themselves forced away from work to watch children who had been suddenly sent home from school due to outbreaks. For some desperate people, their employers had trouble accommodating them and these people could not work from home. The changes to the Paid Sick Leave provisions are supposed to protect employees in legal terms in cases of similar, unforeseen disasters.
Covered Employers who have worked more than 80 hours for city businesses within 120 days are entitled to receive Paid Sick Leave. Now, Paid Sick Leave has some expanded facets where people who are following quarantine rules can use it to care for themselves or their loved ones. Notably, a section was added where employees would be allowed to stay home to prevent the spread of a highly contagious virus, which was not previously covered in legal protections. This meant that many employees worried whether they had to disobey the advice of health professionals and city officials, risk their own health, and experience other stressors all because employers said it didn’t qualify for Paid Sick Leave.
While these recent changes sound promising, we know that many violations will continue to occur both in relation to wage theft and Paid Sick Leave. If you believe that your employer has treated you unfairly and has violated state or federal employment law, you should speak to a Chicago wage theft lawyer as soon as you can. The Disparti Law Group has recovered over $1 Billion for our clients. We are dedicated to helping employees assert their rights and holding employers accountable.
Contact us today at (312)600-6000 and find out why thousands of our clients say, “Larry Wins!”