Employee Sick Leave Act

On August 19, 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Employee Sick Leave Act, Public Act 99-0841 (the Act), which goes into effect on January 1, 2017. The Act requires Illinois employers that currently provide sick leave for employees to allow employees to use their personal sick leave benefits for absences due to illnesses, injuries, or medical appointments of their family members. In short, under the Act, employees can use their personal sick leave for their family members’ medical needs just as they would be able to use their personal sick leave for their own illnesses or injuries.

The Employee Sick Leave Act covers Illinois employers who already provide personal sick leave benefits to their employees, and does not require employers to create and provide such benefits. However, under the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, effective on July 1, 2017, many employers in Chicago will be required to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave benefits. This Act will therefore apply to those employers covered under the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance when it becomes effective in July, as addressed in E. Jason Tremblay’s June 29 blog post, “Paid Sick Leave is Coming to Chicago.”

Personal Sick Leave Under the Act

The Employee Sick Leave Act defines “personal sick leave benefits” to include the time accrued and available to employees to be used for absences from work due to personal illness, injury, or medical appointments. Additionally, “family members” are defined broadly to include immediate family, parents-in-law, grandchildren, grandparents, or stepparents. The Act provides that employees can take leave for “reasonable periods of time” (within the available sick leave under the applicable policy) depending on whether the employees’ attendance is necessary. The Act, however, does not extend the maximum period of leave provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers can further limit the amount of leave taken for an employee’s family medical care to the amount of personal sick leave that an employee would have accrued over six months at the employee’s accrual rate. Employees are also unable to use these benefits for absences from work when their employer has a plan that already provides compensation for their absences.

The Act’s Impact on Employers

All covered employers – those who currently provide sick leave or who will be required to under the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – should update their employee handbooks and/or leave policies to address the Employee Sick Leave Act’s requirements and to provide notice to employees of their rights under the Act. Employers who already have paid time off policies that provide leave benefits for family medical needs are not required to modify their policies. Additionally, employers should be aware that they are prohibited from retaliating or taking any other adverse actions against employees who exercise their rights, or attempt to do so, under the Employee Sick Leave Act. Aggrieved employees may seek recourse either before the Illinois Department of Labor or in state court for violations of the Act.