Leave obligations for Illinois employers have expanded yet again with the recent passage of the Illinois Family Military Leave Act.  The Act, which was signed into law and took effect on August 14, 2005, requires employers with more than 50 employees to grant spouses and parents of military personnel up to 30 days of unpaid leave during the time that federal or state deployment orders are in effect.  Employers that have between 15 and 50 employees are required to provide up to 15 days of unpaid family military leave.
The eligibility requirements of the Illinois Family Military Leave Act mirror those of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act – i.e., the employee must work for the employer for at least 12 months, and must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave.  Covered employers may require an employee to exhaust all accrued vacation, personal and compensatory time first before granting the 15/30 days of leave required under the Act; however, exhaustion of disability or sick leave may not be required.
While an employee is on family military leave, the employer must continue any benefits in which the employee participates, but at the employee’s expense.  An employee returning from family military leave must be restored to the same position he or she held prior to the leave, or to a position with equivalent seniority, benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment.
Where possible the employee should consult with the employer to schedule the leave so as to not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.  An employee seeking leave of five or more consecutive work days must provide the employer at least 14 days’ advance notice; employees taking leave of less than five consecutive work days are expected to provide “advance notice as is practicable.”  An employer may require certification from the pertinent military authority to verify an employee’s eligibility for leave.
Consistent with most other Illinois employment statutes, the Illinois Family Military Leave Act contains anti-discrimination and retaliation provisions.  However, unlike some Illinois employment laws, it allows employees direct recourse to the state courts for violations of the Act and does not require that the employee file charges with the Illinois Department of Labor or other state agency.
The Illinois Family Military Leave Act does not presently include any requirement that employers post notice of employees’ rights under the Act or adopt a written family military leave policy.
Ogletree Deakins recommends that Illinois employers meeting the 15-employee threshold under the Illinois Family Military Leave Act review their existing leave policies to ensure compliance with the Act.  Employers doing business in Illinois should also be mindful of the added leave requirements imposed by the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act, the Illinois School Visitation Rights Act, the Illinois Employee Blood Donation Leave Act and the Illinois Voting Leave Law.
Should you have any questions about the new law, please contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 866-287-2576 or via e-mail at clientservices@ogletreedeakins.com.

Note: This article was published in the August 25, 2005 issue of the Illinois eAuthority.

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