Chicago Prohibits Retaliation Against Employees Who Stay Home Due to COVID-19

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 29, 2020

Employers in Chicago may not fire, demote or take any other adverse action against employees who follow orders to stay home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A new ordinance prohibits employers from taking adverse action against covered employees for obeying an order issued by the city's mayor or public health department, the governor of Illinois or, in the case of situations 2-4 below, a treating healthcare provider, which requires them to:

  1. Stay at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19;
  2. Remain at home while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or sick with COVID-19;
  3. Obey a quarantine order;
  4. Obey an isolation order; and
  5. Obey an order issued by the city health commissioner regarding the duties of hospitals and other congregate facilities.

Employers also may not take adverse action against covered employee for caring for an individual subject to the first three situations above.

Employees who face an adverse action can file a civil action, in which they may recover:

  • Reinstatement to either the same position held before the retaliatory action or to an equivalent position;
  • Triple the wages that would have been owed to them had the retaliatory action not taken place, as well as any other actual damages directly caused by the retaliatory action; and
  • Costs and attorney fees.

The ordinance took effect May 20. It will remain in effect until the city council repeals it or the city health commissioner makes a written determination that the coronavirus threat has diminished to the point that it can safely be repealed.