By: Maryjo Pirages Reynolds

Illinois employers with 15 or more employees have been required by the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”) to provide unpaid leave to employees who were victims or in a family/household of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. VESSA was recently amended to require that all Illinois employers, regardless of size, provide such leave. Specifically, as of January 1, 2017, employers with 1-14 employees are required to provide employees experiencing domestic or sexual violence with up to 4 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Employers with 15-49 employees must provide up to 8 weeks of VESSA leave during any 12-month period. Finally, employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of VESSA leave during any 12-month period. Importantly, if applicable, employers are not required to provide more time than permitted under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The amendments to VESSA did not impact the Act’s previous provisions. Employees entitled to unpaid leave under VESSA must still provide their employer with at least 48 hours of notice if practicable. The employer can still require certification of the leave, which may include police records, court records, and documentation from victim services, an attorney, and/or a clergy member, etc. Upon a return from VESSA leave, an employee must be returned to his or her previous position or an equivalent position.

We recommend that employers, particularly small employers, review their handbooks and/or leave policies, and update them if necessary to provide for the proper allowance of VESSA leave. If you have any questions regarding VESSA leave employee rights and/or how to navigate the VESSA leave process, feel free to contact us.