Additional Expansions of Illinois Employee Leave Rights

Labor & Employment Workforce Watch
February 2024

With Illinois implementing mandatory paid leave for all workers (see our commentary on that requirement here), not to mention Chicago’s parallel ordinance and the eleventh-hour postponement thereof, it is no wonder that recent expansions of other statewide leave laws in Illinois have flown under the radar.

Specifically, effective January 1, 2024, the Illinois legislature enlarged leave rights, statewide, to encompass:

  • Parents experiencing the loss of a child due to suicide or homicide;
  • Individuals experiencing the loss of a family member who was the victim of a violent crime; and
  • Individuals donating organs.

While these extensions only trigger unpaid leave, employers should nonetheless familiarize themselves with their obligations to ensure compliance. To that end, these enhanced leave rights are summarized below.

Child Extended Bereavement Leave Act

Illinois employees have been entitled to up to ten workdays of unpaid bereavement leave since implementation of the Child Bereavement Leave Act in 2016. Effective in 2023, that Act was re-named the Family Bereavement Leave Act and it expanded Illinois employees’ rights to leave following the loss of a broadened group of family members (see our commentary on that amendment here).

The Child Extended Bereavement Leave Act (the “CEBLA”) provides employees with a much longer unpaid leave period, six or twelve weeks of unpaid leave, if the employee experiences the loss of a child by homicide or suicide. The CEBLA covers employers with 50 or more employees in Illinois and provides the leave to employees who have worked for that employer for at least two weeks. The CEBLA defines a “child” as “an employee’s biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.”

The amount of leave depends on the size of the employer. Employers with 50 – 249 employees in Illinois must allow employees up to six weeks of unpaid leave, while employers with 250 or more Illinois employees must allow CEBLA-eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. CEBLA leave is required to be taken within one year after employees notify their employers of a covered loss. CEBLA leave may be taken in a single continuous stretch or intermittently in increments of at least four hours. Eligible employees may substitute any other leave to which they are entitled, whether paid or unpaid, for leave available under the CEBLA.

The CEBLA allows employers to require employees to provide reasonable notice of their intent to take CEBLA leave unless it would be unreasonable or impractical for them to do so. Employers also may require employees to provide reasonable documentation substantiating their eligibility for leave (e.g., a death certificate or a published obituary). After completing CEBLA leave, employers must return employees to their previous positions, or ones with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employees do not accrue seniority or any other benefits while on CEBLA leave. An employee may not take both CEBLA leave and Illinois Family Bereavement Leave Act leave due to the death of the same child.

Leave for Employees Experiencing Loss as a Result of a Violent Crime

An amendment enacted by the Illinois legislature effective January 1, 2024, expanded the previous leave provided under the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”) for legal advice and medical treatment and other services, to also include time off for death-related events; namely, up to two workweeks (i.e., 10 workdays) of unpaid leave when a violent crime results in the loss of a family or household member. Specifically, the amendment permits eligible employees to take leave to:

  • Attend the funeral, or alternative to a funeral or wake, of a family or household member who is the victim of a crime of violence;
  • Make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family or household member who is the victim of a crime of violence; or
  • Grieve the death of a family or household member who is the victim of a crime of violence.

Employees must complete leave under the expanded VESSA within 60 days after the date on which they receive notice of the death of a victim. Employees are entitled to take their full allotment of unpaid leave under both the Family Bereavement Leave Act and the expanded VESSA even if their leave rights under those Acts stem from the same loss.

Employers may require employees to certify their entitlement to this expanded VESSA leave by providing a sworn statement and, if the employee is in possession of such a document, a death certificate, published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial service from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency, or other corroborating evidence.

Organ Donor Leave

Finally, the Illinois Employee Blood Donation Leave Act was amended effective January 1, 2024 becoming the Employee Blood and Organ Donation Leave Act (emphasis added). This amendment extended the Employee Blood Donation Leave Act to afford eligible Illinois employees who serve as organ donors up to 10 days of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. Previously, the Act provided employees with unpaid leave only to donate blood. For purposes of this Act, an “organ” is defined as “any biological tissue of the human body that may be donated by a living donor, including, but not limited to, the kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, intestine, bone, and skin or any subpart thereof.”