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New Illinois Law Provides Workplace Leave to Victims of Domestic Violence

New Illinois Law Provides Workplace Leave to Victims of Domestic Violence
  • August 26, 2003

Adding to a sweep of new legislation impacting the workplace, Illinois has enacted the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act. The law provides for job protected leaves of absence, as well as other protection and benefits, for employees who are domestic violence victims and their family or household members whose interests are not adverse to the victim. The law, signed by Governor Blagojevich on August 25, became effectively immediately.

Eligible employees and family and household members must be provided leave of up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period to enable them to: (1) seek medical attention for or recover from physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic violence; (2) obtain services from a victim's services organization; (3) obtain psychological or other counseling; (4) participate in safety planning, temporary or permanent relocation, or take other actions to increase their physical safety or economic security; or (5) seek legal assistance or remedies to ensure their health and safety. Leave may be taken intermittently or on a reduced work schedule.

The Act applies to employers with 50 or more employees. It does not provide additional time if the leave is also covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The employer may require the employee to provide certification of the need for leave, including the employee's sworn statement; documentation from a victim's services organization, member of the clergy or medical professional from whom the employee or family or household member has sought assistance; a police report or court record; or "other corroborating evidence."

In addition to job-protected leave, the Act prohibits: (1) discrimination or retaliation against employees who exercise their rights or oppose unlawful actions under the Act; and (2) discrimination against employees or prospective employees who are perceived as being the victims of domestic violence, or who have family or household members who are perceived as being victims of domestic violence.

Employers have an obligation to allow reasonable adjustments to the individual's job structure, the physical workplace, or other terms or conditions (e.g., transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, change in telephone number or lock installation) to accommodate known limitations resulting from the situation.

The Illinois Department of Labor is authorized to administer and enforce the Act. If an administrative hearing established a violation of the Act, the employee could be awarded back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, equitable relief such as hiring or reinstatement, and attorneys' fees.

This new law provides Illinois employees who are domestic violence victims, and their affected family or household members, with leave rights similar to, but seemingly broader than, those provided under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. For example, the Illinois law makes more individuals eligible for leave under a broader range of circumstances. It also obligates the employer to provide accommodations to eligible employees. How broadly these rights exist will likely be addressed through administrative regulation.

©2003 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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