Illinois Expands the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act

On August 20, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Illinois House Bill 3582, which takes effect on January 1, 2022 and amends the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) in several ways. This law entitles employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence (or whose family members or household members are victims of such violence) to take unpaid leave from work to address issues related to the violence.

The amendment expands or modifies aspects of leave available under VESSA in the following ways:

The law will now permit leave relating to a “crime of violence,” which can include sex offenses, assault, harassment and obscene communication, armed violence, and other crimes. The law defines sexual violence to include sexual assault.

In addition, employees can now take VESSA leave for a much broader group of family members, including a party to a civil union, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, or “any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee.”

The amendments also modify the process for employee certification of the need for leave.  Prior to this amendment, employers could require certification in the form of: (a) documentation from the employee, agent, or volunteer of a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional from whom the employee or the employee’s family or household member has sought assistance; (b) a police or court record; or (c) other corroborating evidence. The amendments now clarify that the employee can choose the type of documentation to submit. Moreover, the employer cannot request or require more than one document to be submitted during the same 12-month period leave is requested or taken if the reason for leave is related to the same incident(s) of violence or the same perpetrator(s) of the violence.

Finally, the amendments add a confidentiality provision that requires all information provided to the employer, including the employee’s statement and any other documentation, record, or corroborating evidence, and the fact that the employee requested or obtained an accommodation pursuant to VESSA, to be retained in the strictest confidence by the employer except to the extent that the disclosure is: (1) requested or consented to in writing by the employee; or (2) otherwise required by applicable federal or state law.

Illinois employers should make any necessary adjustments to their VESSA policies or leave request processes prior to January 1, 2022.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.