woman receiving covid-19 vaccine

Employers in Chicago Prohibited from Disciplining Employees Who Take Time Off to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

For employees who work in the city of Chicago, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can no longer cost them their job. As of April 21, 2021, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved an Ordinance that makes it illegal for Chicago employers to either fire or discipline workers who leave work during normally scheduled work hours to get vaccinated. 

Who Is Included?

The Ordinance is applicable to all employers and workers within the city of Chicago regardless of employee status: employees, or non-employee independent contractors, etc. According to the Ordinance, an “employer” is “any natural individual, firm, trust, partnership, association, joint venture, corporation or other legal entity who engages the services of at least one individual for payment.” Also, “worker” is defined in the Ordinance as “an individual that performs work for an Employer, including as an employee or as an independent contractor.”

Employers Prohibited from Taking Any Adverse Actions

Under the new Ordinance, it doesn’t matter whether getting the COVID-19 vaccine is volunteer or required by an employer. No matter why a worker is receiving the vaccine, an employer may not require that the worker do so during non-scheduled work hours. However, if a worker chooses to take time off from his or her normal work hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the employer is legally prohibited from taking any adverse action against the worker for doing so. This includes any type of discipline or termination. 

According to the Ordinance, if a worker is provided with paid sick leave or other paid time off available, and the worker chooses to use that time to receive the vaccine, the employer must allow them to do so. But if an employer makes it a requirement for its workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, the employer must pay its workers for the time it takes them to get the vaccine. This means that if the worker’s appointment for the vaccine falls during normal work hours, he or she must be paid his or her regular rate of pay for up to four hours per dose. Additionally, if an employer requires its workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it may not require its workers to use paid time off or paid sick leave for this time. 

If an employer decides to discipline or terminate a worker for leaving to receive a COVID-19 vaccination shot, it will be assumed that such actions are retaliation against the worker. 

What Consequences Will Employers Face?

If an employer violates the Ordinance in any way, it will be liable to pay a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 per offense. Additionally, if an employer fires the worker, the worker is entitled to be reinstated to the same or equal position as well as damages of three times the amount of wages that he or she lost as well as actual damages incurred and attorneys’ fees.  

The IL Employment Law Attorneys at ST Legal Group Can Help

If you believe that your employer has wrongfully terminated you or illegally retaliated against you in any way, the attorneys at ST Legal Group can help. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!