Sep 20, 2016

Illinois passes Sick Leave Act

Illinois is offering more protection to Illinois workers by the enactment of the Illinois Sick Leave Act. This new law does not require Illinois employers to offer sick leave to their employees, but requires Illinois employers who offer this benefit to their employees to be more flexible in its use. (This is different from the recently enacted Chicago Sick Leave Ordinance, which will become effective on July 1, 2017, and requires Chicago employers to offer sick leave to their employees.)

What does the law require?

If an Illinois employer currently offers sick leave, it will be required to allow its employees to use up to 50 percent of their accrued time for their family members’ illnesses, doctor visits, etc. The legislative history for the new law suggests that sick leave does not include short- or long-term disability plans. Under the statute, the definition of “family” is broadened beyond immediate family—spouses and domestic partners, children and parents—to include siblings and grandparents. With many employees in the so-called sandwich generation, responsible both for their children and their parents, this new law could be particularly helpful. The requested leave does not have to be FMLA eligible, that is, for example, it can be used to take children or parents to routine medical examinations, but expressly cannot be used to extend FMLA leave beyond 12 weeks in a 12-month period. Furthermore, employers may not retaliate against employees who use or ask to use their sick time for themselves or their family members.

The Illinois legislature charged the Illinois Department of Labor with enforcing the new law but did not include any penalties for failures to comply. The new law becomes effective on January 1, 2017.

What does it mean for you?

If an employer does not offer sick leave, it is not required to start offering it now. No change.

If an employer offers paid time off (PTO) that can be used for any reason—personal, illness or vacation—this law will not change its allocation. If, for instance, an employee wants to take his mother to the doctor he still can use PTO. No change.

If an employer offers sick leave—not PTO—but actual sick leave, the employer cannot limit its use to just employees, but now must allow employees to use up to 50 percent of that time for their families, if needed. This is the change. Employers may track the sick leave usage to ensure that their employees’ family use of sick leave is limited to 50 percent.

The bottom line

Employers are not required to offer sick leave or to offer more sick leave in order for their employees to address their families’ medical needs. Employers simply cannot refuse an employee’s request to take half their accrued sick leave (per the employer’s policy) for the care of their family members. Like other new laws enacted in this busy year, the Illinois Sick Leave Act will become effective on January 1, 2017.

If you would like more information on this new law or other employment matters, please contact one of Chuhak & Tecson’s Employment attorneys. 

This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.

Client alert authored by: Jeralyn H. Baran, Principal