Illinois: New Child Bereavement Leave Act

On July 29, 2016 Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Child Bereavement Leave Act which became effective immediately. chicago-61213_1920

The Act requires employers with 50 or more employees who are subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide eligible employees with up to 10 days of unpaid time off following the death of the employee’s child. Employees become eligible for the leave based on the eligibility requirements of the FMLA – that is after the employee has worked at least 12 months for the employer and has worked at least 1,250 in the preceding 12 month period.

Employees are permitted to use the bereavement leave to attend the funeral of the child, to make arrangements following the death of the child, or to grieve the death of the child. Employees are required to take the allowed bereavement leave within 60 days after the date the employee receives notice of the death. Employers can request documentation of the death such as a death certificate or an obituary. Employees are requested to provide at least 48 hours of notice of the leave when it is reasonable and practicable to provide such notice.

Child is defined broadly in the Act to include the employee’s biological children, stepchildren, foster children, adoptive children, as well as any legal wards or children of a person standing in locos parentis (in place of the parent). This Act applies to both dependent children and adult children of the employee.

Employees can request to use any paid time off in lieu of taking unpaid time off for the bereavement leave but employers cannot require the employee to use paid time off.

In the event of the death of more than one child of an employee in a 12 month period, the employee is permitted to take 2 weeks per deceased child with a maximum of 6 weeks in a 12 month period.

The bereavement leave is not in addition to the 12 weeks of unpaid leave allowed under the FMLA. For example, if an employee has already exhausted their 12 weeks of FMLA in a 12 month period, an employer is not required to allow the employee an additional two weeks of unpaid leave, however they are certainly allowed to give the employee additional time off following the death of a child.

Employers are forbidden from retaliating against an employee for exercising their rights under the Act. Employees who believe the employer has violated its obligations under the Act have 60 days after the violation to file a complaint through the Illinois Department of Labor or file a suit in circuit court. Fines for employers who violate the Act will be up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for a second of subsequent offense.

There is currently no posting or notice requirement for the new Act, but employers should review their current leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law. Human Resources staff and management should also be notified of the new requirement to ensure bereavement leave is properly handled for eligible employees.