On July 29, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Child Bereavement Leave Act into law, requiring Illinois employers with at least 50 employees to provide employees with two weeks (10 work days) of unpaid leave upon the loss of a child. The Act broadly defines “child” to include an employee’s son or daughter who is a biological, adopted, or foster child; a stepchild; a legal ward; or child of a person standing in loco parentis. Employees may use such leave to: (1) attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a child; (2) make arrangements necessitated by the death of the child; or (3) grieve the death of the child. Should an employee suffer the loss of more than one child in a 12-month period, the employer must provide up to six weeks of bereavement leave. An employee has the option to substitute paid leave for bereavement leave, but the employer may not require employees to do so.
The Act does place some limitations on an employee’s right to take unpaid bereavement leave. First, in order to be eligible for leaver under the Act, an employee must have been employed for at least 12 months and have at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding commencement of the leave. An employee may not take bereavement leave if the employee already has exhausted 12 weeks of leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Employees must provide the employer with at least 48 hours advance notice of his or her intention to take bereavement leave, unless providing such notice is not reasonable and practicable. An employer may also require reasonable documentation of the need for leave under the Act, such as a death certificate, published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services. Employees who are eligible for bereavement leave are required to complete the leave within 60 days after the date the employee receives notice of the death of his or her child.
Illinois employers are responsible for compliance with this law effective July 29, 2016, the date the law was signed by Governor Rauner. All Illinois employers with 50 or more employees should review and update their employee handbooks and/or leave policies to adequately address child bereavement leave. Employers should also train appropriate personnel (human resources, benefits, etc.) on how to manage the bereavement leave. Employers should be aware that the Act explicitly prohibits employers from retaliating or taking any other adverse actions against employees who exercise, or attempt to exercise their rights under the Act, and against those who oppose practices the employee believes to be in violation of the Act. An aggrieved employee may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or file a civil action in state court within 60 days of an alleged violation. The Act imposes a civil penalty up to $500 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense.