In another move that is impacting how Chicago and suburban employers do business, the Cook County Board passed an ordinance last Wednesday, October 26, 2016, that is set to gradually raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. This comes just weeks after the Cook County Board passed a separate ordinance requiring Chicago and suburban employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. Both Cook County’s minimum wage ordinance and paid sick leave ordinance are strikingly similar to the Chicago City Council’s versions of the same, with Cook County apparently attempting to match the City’s stringent requirements.
The first increase is slated to go into effect on July 1, 2017, raising the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour. The next increase goes into effect on July 1, 2018, raising the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour. On July 1, 2019, the minimum wage goes up to $12.00 per, and on July 1, 2020, it will reach $13.00 per hour. For each year thereafter, the minimum wage is set to increase at the rate of the CPI, capped at a maximum of 2.5%.
Generally, the new ordinance applies to any business or individual that employs at least one “employee” who performs at least two hours of work in any two-week period while physically present within the geographical boundaries of Cook County, with very few exceptions.
In addition to raising the minimum wage, Cook County employers will also be required to comply with certain notice provisions. This includes posting a notice advising employees of their rights under the ordinance in a “conspicuous place” at each of the employer’s facilities within the geographic boundaries of Cook County, and providing employees a written notice stating the same with their first paycheck issued after July 1, 2017.
Failure to comply with the above regulations could be costly. The ordinance itself expressly creates a cause of action against an employer who underpays its employees, providing that any affected employee may recover damages in the amount equal to three times the full amount of any such underpayment, along with costs and attorneys’ fees. Additionally, any violating employer could be subject to fines in the amount of $500 to $1,000 per day for each offense.
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