On July 29, 2016, Governor Rauner of Illinois signed into law the Child Bereavement Leave Act (the “Act”). The Act took effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor.
What the Act Provides
Under the Act, eligible employees are entitled to use a maximum of two weeks (10 work days) of unpaid bereavement leave to:
- Attend the funeral or alternative to the funeral of a child;
- Make arrangements necessitated by the death of a child; or
- Grieve the child’s death.
A “child” is defined as a biological, adopted or foster child, or step-child, legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis and assumes parental status and responsibilities.
Who the Act Covers
The Act adopts the same definitions of “employer” and “employee” as used in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). That means an eligible employee under the Act must have been employed for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours. A covered employer must employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar work weeks in the current or proceeding calendar year.
When Leave Under the Act Must Be Requested and Used
An employee seeking bereavement leave must provide at least 48 hours advance notice, unless such notice is not “reasonable and practicable.” Bereavement leave must be completed within 60 days after the date on which the employee learns of the death of the child. The Act does not create a right for an employee to take unpaid leave that exceeds the unpaid leave allowed under the FMLA.
If bereavement leave is available under a company policy, employment agreement or other benefit program, the employee may elect to substitute such paid or unpaid leave for an equivalent period of leave provided under the Act.
How the Act is Enforced
The Act authorizes the Illinois Department of Labor to impose civil penalties (which are rather minimal), and also authorizes an employee to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor, or a civil action in a state circuit court. The circuit court may grant injunctive relief and order any other equitable relief necessary to address a violation of the Act. An employee has only 60 days to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or a circuit court. The Act also contains an anti-retaliation provision prohibiting any adverse action against an employee who seeks to exercise rights under the Act.
What You Should Know
Unlike the FMLA and other laws, the Act does not require employers to post a notice about the Act. Although the monetary penalties are minimal, the negative publicity and detrimental effect on employee morale for any violation of the Act are far more damaging. It’s hard to imagine a more valid reason for bereavement leave than the loss of a child. For that reason, it is wise for Illinois employers subject to the Act to draft a simple written policy informing employees of their rights and obligations under this new law, as well as to educate supervisors about the employer’s new responsibilities under the Act.
About the Author
Mark A. McAnulty, a partner at Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP, in Evansville, Indiana, practices labor and employment law, and is a member of the KDDK litigation, trials and appeals practice team. Licensed to practice in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri, Mark has represented clients in administrative and judicial proceedings throughout the tri-state area. Mark counsels clients regarding hiring and disciplinary issues, as well as compliance with local, state and federal employment laws. Mark also works with clients in reviewing and drafting employment contracts, non-compete agreements, and employee handbooks; and has advised and represented employers in labor management and union avoidance matters.