By: Alexander J. Mezny

Leave laws have proliferated in the wake of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Below is a summary of some of the miscellaneous leave laws in Illinois:

Leave for Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence.  The Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) requires employers of 15 or more employees to provide unpaid leave to any employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence or has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.  For employers of 15-49 employees, the leave allotment is 8 workweeks during any 12-month period.  For employers of more than 50 employees, the leave allotment is 12 workweeks during any 12-month period.  The leave is to be used to seek medical attention or counseling for injuries or psychological trauma, obtain victim services, participate in safety planning, relocate, seek legal assistance, or participate in a related court proceeding (including preparation).  Leave may be taken intermittently.

Under the Act, the employer may require a certification before leave is granted to the employee. The employee must provide at least 48 hours’ advance notice when practicable. The employer must keep the fact the employee has requested or obtained leave confidential.  The employer must maintain health and other benefits for the employee while the employee is on leave, which may require the employer to continue to make payments for benefits during the leave.  Time off for leave under the FMLA may be counted against the allotment of time under this Act.

Family Military Leave Act.  Under the Illinois Family Military Leave Act, if an eligible employee’s spouse or child is called to military service lasting longer than 30 days, the employee is entitled to unpaid family military leave during the time the deployment orders are in effect.  For employers of 15-50 employees, the leave allotment is 15 days.  For employers of more than 50 employees, the leave allotment is 30 days.  Eligibility requirements are similar to the FMLA: the employee must have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period before the requested leave.  The Act specifically applies to independent contractors. 

The employer may require certification from the military to verify eligibility.  Where possible, the employee must consult with the employer to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt operations.  The employee must give 14 days’ notice if the leave will consist of five or more consecutive work days. Employees taking leave for less than five consecutive days must only provide whatever advance notice is practicable.  The employer must make it possible for the employee to pay for benefits during the leave and must restore benefits upon return from the leave.  Accrued but unused time off benefits must be used before taking unpaid family military leave.  Time off for leave under the FMLA may be counted against the allotment of time under this Act.  

School Conference & Activity Leave.  The Illinois School Visitation Rights Act requires all Illinois employers to grant employees unpaid leave to attend school conferences or classroom activities related to the employee’s child if the conference or classroom activities cannot be scheduled during nonworking hours.  The leave is up to 8 hours during any school year, no more than 4 hours of which may be taken on any given day.  Only employees who work at least half-time for at least six consecutive months are eligible for leave. The employee must submit a written request for the leave at least 7 days in advance, but no more than 24 hours’ notice may be required in emergency situations. The employee must consult with the employer to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.  The employee must first exhaust all accrued vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave, and any other leave available to the employee, other than sick leave and disability leave, before taking leave under this Act. 

Employee Blood Donation Leave.  The Illinois Blood Donation Leave Act applies to units of local government and employers of 51 or more employees but merely creates an option for employers to grant employees paid leave for up to one hour every 56 days to donate blood.  Employers may require that the employee submit (1) a written statement from the blood bank indicating that s/he has an appointment to donate blood, and (2) a written statement from the blood bank confirming that the employee kept the appointment.

Illinois Jury Duty Requirements.  Employees called for jury duty must be granted time off to fulfill their jury duty requirements.  Time off must be granted regardless of the shift the employee works.  For example, employers may not require a night shift worker to work while the employee is performing jury duty in the daytime.  The time off that is granted may be without pay.  Since jurors receive a modest wage from the court for their services, employers who choose to pay employees who fulfill their civic duty as jurors may wish to pay only the difference in pay. Employers may require documentation of the number of hours worked as a juror. 

Illinois Voting Requirements.  An employer must give an employee at least two hours off to vote if the employee requests the time prior to the day of the election.  The employer can select the hours.  The time need not be paid.