If one were to include Illinois in the list of states that require employers to provide sick leave, that would be understandable. After all, Illinois last year enacted the Eligible Leave for Employee Caregiving Time (ELECT) law, commonly known as the Sick Leave Act. Understandable, but wrong. The Illinois law does not require employers to provide any sick leave. It only requires that if an employer provides sick leave, it must allow employees to use the time for illness, injury or medical appointments for certain relatives.
The misleadingly titled law also had some unartful wording. For example, its definition of “personal sick leave benefits” excluded “absences from work for which compensation is provided through an employer’s plan,” which led some, like me, to believe that the law only applied to unpaid time off, at least arguably so.
Ten days after the Sick Leave Act went into effect, on January 10, 2017, the Illinois legislature amended it to clarify a few issues and add some provisions. The amendment:
Modifies the definition of “personal sick leave benefits” to mean “any paid or unpaid time available to an employee as provided through an employment benefit plan or paid time off policy,” excluding LTD, STD, an insurance policy or other comparable benefit plan or policy. (emphasis added). So much for my argument that it only applied to unpaid time off policies.
Adds stepchild and domestic partner to the lengthy list of an employee’s relatives for whom the employee may use the personal sick leave benefits.
Adds language allowing an employer to “request” written verification of the employee’s absence from a health care professional, if such verification is required under the employer’s benefit plan or PTO policy. It does not indicate the employer’s recourse if the employee rejects the request.
Clarifies that an employer which provides sick leave benefits based on years of service may limit the amount of sick leave to be used for covered relatives to half the employee’s annual grant. For employers who provide such benefits on an accrual basis, an employee may use up to 6 months of accrued time for covered relatives.
States that the Act does not prohibit an employer from applying the terms and conditions of its employment benefit plan or paid time off policy. I read this to mean that the Act only adds additional uses of sick time and does not otherwise modify an employer’s plan or policy.
Adds some exemptions from the law. It exempts air carriers and many railroads. It also does not apply to any other employment expressly exempted under rules adopted by the Department of Labor (see below).
Clarifies that the Act does not “invalidate, diminish, or otherwise interfere” with any labor contract. The initial law did not address the law’s impact on labor contracts.
States that the Department of Labor “may adopt rules” to implement the Act. The initial draft bill required the DOL to issue rules. As passed, the law said that the DOL was “prohibited from adopted any rules in contravention of this Act.”
While the Act’s title is still misleading, the amendments add some much-needed clarity. If and when Governor Rauner elects to sign the bill, the amendment will become effective.