Seyfarth Synopsis: On January 1, 2017, a new law will go into effect in Illinois. The title of the law -- “Employee Sick Leave Act” --suggests that is it a paid sick leave law. However, it is not a paid sick leave law and does not require an employer to provide sick time. Rather, it requires employers that have sick pay policies or benefits to allow employees to use a portion of that time to cover family member illnesses. In some states, this is known as a “kin care” law.

Related laws: Currently, Illinois does not have a sick pay law mandating that employees provide a certain level of sick time. However, a sick pay ordinance has already been passed in Chicago and a sick pay ordinance is pending in Cook County.

What the law requires: The law require employers that have “personal sick leave benefits” (which presumably means sick days) to allow the use of such benefits for a family member, including an employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent. Note there is a drafting error in the statute; one subsection does not include domestic partners, but it does appear that the use of personal sick leave benefits for a domestic partner is covered.

What this means: Sick policies that limit the use of sick time to the employee’s own illness are no longer lawful in Illinois.

What is a personal sick leave benefit: The law uses the term “personal sick leave benefits”, which is defined as time accrued and available to the employee to be used as a result of absence from work due to personal illness, injury or medical appointment.

What is excluded: Personal sick leave benefits do not include “absences from work for which compensation is provided through an employer’s plan.” This is believed to be intended to cover short term and long term disability programs, although the law does not state that specifically.

What kinds of absences it covers: The sick time can be used for absences due to an illness, injury or medical appointment of the family member.

Limitations on use: An employer may limit the usage of such personal sick benefits for a family member to 1/2 of the allotted time (the statute states the limitation may not be less than the personal sick leave that would be accrued during 6 months at the employee’s then current rate of entitlement.)

Relationship to other rights: The rights and remedies under this law are in addition to any other rights afforded by contract or under other provisions of law. However, the law does not extend the time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Note that employees can use personal sick leave benefits under this law that are not going to be considered FMLA-qualifying.

Retaliation is Prohibited: Retaliation for the use of personal sick benefits for the purposes identified in the law is prohibited. This is not well defined, but it likely will be used to argue that an employer cannot discipline or give attendance points to employees who use sick time under this law.

Enforcement: The law will be enforced by the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”), which is authorized to issue regulations. Complaints may be filed with the IDOL. Damages and remedies are not specified in the law.