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.
Illinois recently expanded bereavement leave rights for two groups of Illinois employees: (1) parents who lose a child to suicide or homicide, and (2) family members of those killed in a crime of violence.
Child Bereavement Leave for Suicide or Homicide
On August 4, 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Child Extended Bereavement Leave Act (SB2034). Effective January 1, 2024, the Act entitles employees who experience the loss of their child by suicide or homicide to take unpaid leave from work to grieve the loss of that child, which includes an employee’s biological, adopted, foster, or stepchild, legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. This expansion comes a little more than a year after Illinois expanded unpaid leave rights to employees for pregnancy and adoption loss, and the death of a family member, under the Family Bereavement Leave Act.
All employers with at least 50 full-time employees in Illinois are covered by the Act. However, the length of the leave entitlement differs based on whether the employer is considered a “large” or “small” employer. All full-time employees who have worked for their employer for at least 2 weeks are eligible for bereavement leave under the Act.
A “large” employer employs 250 or more full-time employees in Illinois. Eligible employees of large employers are entitled to use up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the loss of their child by suicide or homicide. A “small” employer employs at least 50 but fewer than 250 full-time employees in Illinois. Eligible employees of small employers are entitled to use up to 6 weeks of unpaid leave following the loss of their child.
Employees may take leave under the Act in a single continuous period or intermittently in increments of at least four hours. Unlike the Family Bereavement Act, which requires that leave be taken within 60 days after the employee receives notice of the death of a family member, leave under the Child Extended Bereavement Leave Act may be taken within one year after the employee notifies the employer of the loss.
Employers may require that employees provide reasonable advance notice of the intention to take leave, unless such notice would be unreasonable or impracticable. Employers may require reasonable documentation, which includes a death certificate, published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency. Employers may require that the documentation include a cause of death.
Employees may elect to substitute any paid or unpaid leave (e.g., family, sick, or personal leave) for an equivalent period of leave under the Act.
The Act does not extend the maximum period of leave to which employees are entitled under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or any other paid or unpaid leave provided under federal, state, or local law, a collective bargaining agreement, or an employment benefits plan. Moreover, employees who take leave under the Act are not entitled to take additional leave under the Illinois Family Bereavement Act for the death of the same child.
Leave for Family Members of Those Killed in Crimes of Violence
On July 28, 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 2493, which takes effect on January 1, 2024, and amends the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA). VESSA 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. The law will now permit employees to take up to two weeks (10 workdays) of unpaid leave related to the death of a family member or household member who is killed in a crime of violence to (1) attend the funeral, funeral alternative, or wake, (2) make arrangements necessitated by the death, and (3) grieve the death of the lost family member or household member.
Leave must be taken within 60 days after the date on which the employee receives notice of the death of the victim.
Employers may require certification of the death including a death certificate, published obituary, written verification of death, burial, or memorial services documenting that the family or household member was killed in a crime of violence.
If the employee is also entitled to unpaid leave under the Family Bereavement Leave Act as a result of the death of the family or household member, that leave shall be in addition to, and shall not diminish leave taken under VESSA for the above listed reasons.
Illinois employers should review and revise their bereavement policies, if needed, to ensure compliance with these new requirements effective January 1, 2024.