COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance
In response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, on May 20, 2020, the Chicago City Council passed the COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance ("Ordinance"). The Ordinance aims to protect "Covered Employees" who remain at home to observe public health orders or orders of a treating healthcare provider.
The Ordinance prohibits employers from terminating or demoting a Covered Employee for obeying an order issued by the Mayor, Governor of Illinois, the Chicago Department of Public Health, or, where applicable, a treating healthcare provider. The Ordinance applies to orders that require a Covered Employee to:
Employers are further prohibited from terminating or demoting a Covered Employee if the employee is caring for an individual required to:
The Ordinance does not require employers to allow healthy employees to refuse to work as permitted in current government orders. In the event the employer is not strictly complying with such orders, however, any employee who refuses to work as a result may be protected from retaliation under the Ordinance.
If an employer is found to violate the Ordinance, the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection may take action against the employer to rectify the violation by bringing an administrative or court claim. Furthermore, the aggrieved employee may also bring a civil action against the employer. The employee may be entitled to damages equal to three times the full amount of wages that would have been owed had the retaliatory action not taken place, as well as actual damages caused by the retaliatory conduct, together with costs and attorneys’ fees. The employee may also seek reinstatement to the same position held before the retaliatory action took place or to an equivalent position.
The Ordinance allows an employer to assert an affirmative defense if the employer can prove that it relied on a reasonable interpretation of a public health order and cured the violation within 30 days of learning about it.
If you have any questions about the Ordinance, or any other aspect of dealing with the effects of COVID-19 in the workplace, please contact a member of our Labor and Employment Group.
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