Taking the High Road

On June 24, 2016 the City of Chicago passed the Earned Sick Time ordinance, which stipulates that employers must provide employees with 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. It will take effect starting July 1, 2017.

A coalition of workers’ rights and progressive groups pushed the ordinance through the City Council, over the usual business opposition. Women Employed, an ordinance backer, said it would aid 42 percent of Chicago workers who previously had no right to a single paid sick day.

 The ordinance

  • Applies to businesses of all sizes
  • Allows employees to earn up to 5 sick days a year
  • Gives employees the opportunity to roll over up to 20 hours of unused sick time to the next year
  • Says employees should earn one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked

Last night (Tuesday, Nov 15) Local First Chicago, in partnership with the American Sustainable Business Council, presented a spirited discussion on Paid Leave at Overflow Coffee Bar at 1550 South State Street. Anne Ladky, Executive Director of Women Employed, gave an overview of paid leave issues, followed by a lively panel discussion with three local business executives: Danielle Lombardo, Operations Manager at Honey Butter Fried Chicken; Tony Dreyfuss, Co-Founder of Metropolis Coffee Company; and Jennifer Lolino, HR Director at Earth Friendly Products. The panel discussion was moderated by Megan Kruis (Local First Chicago) and Julia Watts (American Sustainable Business Council).

Anne Ladky explained that Paid Leave laws are gaining traction around the country. While the federal government has fought these laws for years --- and the incoming Trump administration is unlikely to change direction --- cities and states are paving the way for the future. Chicago’s passage of the Earned Sick Time ordinance follows New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego and 18 other cities, and four states (Minnesota, Connecticut, California, and Oregon), plus the District of Columbia.

The executive teams at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Earth Friendly Products, and Metropolis Coffee are all committed to the American Sustainable Business Council’s High Road Employer principles.  Danielle, Tony and Jennifer all agreed that their businesses have benefited from implementing strong paid leave policies: they have extremely low employee turnover, excellent productivity, and above average revenue growth. Despite widespread fears that employees will take advantage of paid leave benefits, Danielle, Tony and Jennifer have all seen the opposite. So far, a relatively small percentage of employees have used the paid sick time benefit, and they don’t abuse it.


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