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Chicago Passes Paid Leave Measure That Will Impact Trade Show Attendees

Kathy Monte - News Editor
Chicago Passes Paid Leave Measure That Will Impact Trade Show Attendees

CHICAGO — A new paid leave law spearheaded by Mayor Brandon Johnson and approved by the Chicago City Council will have implications for those attending trade shows and conventions in the city.

The Council voted 36-12 in favor of the Chicago Paid Leave and Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance that requires Chicago businesses to give workers ten days off per year beginning January 1 — five days of sick leave and five additional days of paid leave.

The ordinance is said to be the most comprehensive of any big city in the country. Led by the Chicago Federation of Labor, a coalition of worker advocacy groups and unions, the issue that impacts events is that two hours of work in a two-week period triggers this ordinance.

The ordinance focuses on “covered employees,” which means an employee who, in any particular two-week period, performs at least two hours of work for an employer while physically present within the geographic boundaries of Chicago. Time spent traveling in the city that is compensated time constitutes work while physically present within the city’s geographic boundaries.

What this means is if someone attends a trade show or conference in Chicago and is in town for more than two hours, they will begin to accrue one hour of sick time and one hour of time off for each 35 hours they work. Even if the employee does not work a full 35 hours during one particular trip, the employer would have to begin recordkeeping to track when the employee would begin to accrue paid time off during subsequent trips. They would also have to comply with providing a notice to an employee about their rights under the ordinance after spending only two hours in Chicago.

If the company they work for doesn’t do this, they can get sued by the employee.

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“This will hurt business travel to Chicago,” Michael Jacobson, President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA), said. “While other cities across the country mandate paid time off for employees, none are as complicated as what Chicago just passed into law. We are not aware of any other city that would consider business travelers, from out of state, as covered employees under their PTO requirements. One screw-up and your company has the chance of getting sued.”

This goes into effect on December 31, and Jacobson says many human resources departments will not have time to redo their payroll systems to include this new ordinance. He added that this is a very expansive ordinance.

“Chicago’s hospitality industry is at a critical point in our recovery from the pandemic, and this policy will impact whether people choose to visit our city for years to come. Instead of finding ways to attract new business travelers and conventions, the City Council is telling them to stay away or risk costly litigation at the hands of a fundamentally flawed ordinance. Unfortunately, these costly and confusing mandates threaten the livelihoods of the very workers alders say they are trying to help,” Jacobson said.

Choose Chicago Reacts

Choose Chicago has been monitoring the creation, passage and implementation of the new Paid Leave Ordinance. According to a Choose Chicago spokesperson, the organization has been in contact with the Chicago Office of Labor Standards (OLS) regarding the new legislation and has received assurances that the ordinance is not intended to impact short-term travelers visiting Chicago for one-off trade shows or conventions. Over the coming days and weeks, Choose Chicago will be working closely with its colleagues at the City of Chicago as well as the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) to understand the impact of the ordinance and share up-to-date information with its clients.

Choose Chicago also said that Chicago’s Office of Labor Standards has indicated they intend to issue rules to clarify the legislation requirements and ensure that the implementation of the new ordinance does not have an onerous impact on convention travelers. Additionally, Choose Chicago said the provision of the ordinance allowing employees to sue their employer for violations of the paid time off regulations does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025.

In addition, the MPEA says it has closely monitored the development of the City of Chicago’s new Paid Leave Ordinance and its impacts on trade shows, conventions and other events at the McCormick Square campus.

It said, “We understand our customers may have questions or concerns about how this ordinance may affect their events, and in the coming days, we will work with our partners, including Choose Chicago, to ensure all visitors, vendors, and clients fully understand the new ordinance. Any customers with additional questions are welcome to reach out to MPEA and our partners.”

Check out this article from the Chicago Tribune featuring Trade Show Executive’s original reporting.

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