City of Chicago outlaws employer retaliation for COVID vaccine-related time off

To prevent employer retaliation against workers who must take time off to get the COVID vaccine, the city of Chicago issued an ordinance prohibiting retaliation, or taking any action, against workers who take time off to get their COVID vaccine.  The ordinance, passed by the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, bolsters last May’s anti-retaliation ordinance, which protects workers from retaliation if they are unable to work because of a COVID stay-at-home order, by making vaccination a protected activity.

Employers in the city of Chicago are now prohibited from retaliating against workers by taking adverse actions, including termination, demotion, layoff or punitive scheduling changes against employees who take time off to get vaccinated.  The city says employers cannot require employees to use non-shift hours to obtain the vaccine.  The ordinance addresses workers who are required to get the vaccine by their employer and those who choose to get the vaccine, but are not required by their workplace to do so.

“Throughout the pandemic, Chicago’s city council has passed ordinances aimed at protecting workers from job disruptions related to COVID,” says employment attorney Gary Savine, principal, Savine Employment Law, Ltd. “These ordinances benefit workers who must get the vaccine and those who choose to.  They foster greater trust in the workplace, which is always a benefit to employers.”

Not all employers require their employees to get the vaccine.  However, if an employer requires its workforce to be vaccinated, they must pay the employee at their regular rate for up to four hours, per dose.  There can be no requirement that an employee get the vaccine outside their regular shift.

If an employer does not require vaccination of its workforce, it still must allow eligible employees to use paid sick leave to cover the time to get the vaccine.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection enforces the retaliation ordinance and can issue fines between $1,000 and $5,000, per offense, to companies who violate the ordinance.

To read more about employer retaliation and COVID, check out this link.

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Gary Savine is an Illinois employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. in Chicago. Gary regularly advises human resources professionals on recently enacted employment laws.

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