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Illinois Strengthens Employment Rights and Benefits for Its "Citizen Soldiers"

By Jody Wilner Moran
  • January 28, 2005

Members of the National Guard and military reserves called to active duty from Illinois have been extended additional rights and benefits by the state in what has been called the first legislation of its kind in the U. S., the "Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative."

The Illinois Human Rights Act always had prohibited employment discrimination based on a person's "military status," traditionally defined as "a person's status on active duty in the armed forces of the United States." Effective July 28, 2004, "military status" also encompasses "a person's status as a current member of any reserve component of the armed forces of the United States, including the United States Army Reserve, United States Marine Corps Reserve, United States Navy Reserve, United States Air Force Reserve, and the United States Coast Guard Reserve, or status as a current member of the Illinois Army National Guard or Illinois Air National Guard." Thus, employees who are serving in any reserve area of the armed forces cannot be discriminated against in any terms and conditions of employment because of their reserve status.

An amendment to the Service Men's Employment Tenure Act – renamed the Service Member's Employment Tenure Act – provides additional protection for Illinois National Guard and Reserve members who are called to active duty. This law imposes fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 against employers who terminate soldiers' jobs while they are serving on active duty. If an employer knowingly violates the Act, it must compensate the person called to active duty for any loss of wages or benefits, along with reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

Employers doing business in Illinois should review their leave policies to ensure compliance with this amendment. Should you have any questions, consult with legal counsel.

©2005 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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