Alan M. Kaplan, Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section Council, reports that Illinois citizens and legal practitioners are not filing VESSA claims in great numbers. VESSA, the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act, provides employees working for companies having at least 50 employees throughout the United States rights similar to those under the Family & Medical Leave Act. An employee, who is the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or who has a family or a household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, is entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period of time.
Since August 25, 2003, when VESSA became effective, only 73 claims have been filed with the Illinois Department of Labor. Of these, only 6 claims are at the administrative stage, 15 settled, and the Department denied 52 claims. Of the 52 denied claims, the Department denied 23 due to a lack of reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred, 16 for failure to cooperate, 7 for lack of jurisdiction, 4 for failure to appear for an interview, and 2 were voluntarily withdrawn. Currently, the Department reports no backlog, which might be the first time that any government agency has reported no backlog in cases. If a complainant files a charge, they can expect to receive a decision within 10 days.
The Department has issued only three decisions, one of the most interesting being Perry v. Flying J. Travel, IDOL File NO. 2004-VS0013. Ms. Perry resigned after Flying J did not quickly change her work schedule so that she could be at home for her daughter who was a victim of domestic violence. Although the administrative law judge found that VESSA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations, Flying J did not force Perry to resign when it did not immediately accommodate the request. Instead, the administrative law judge found that Flying J took a number of steps to try to accommodate Perry’s request and that Perry resigned before Flying J could make the schedule changes.