January 24, 2017

Illinois Attempts to Fix State's Employee Sick Leave Act

Holland & Knight Alert
Phillip M. Schreiber

The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The act generally requires that employers who provide sick leave allow employees to use up to one-half of their available annual accrual for the care of specified family members.

As originally enacted, the act had left a lot of uncertainty in its application. For example, the original definition of "personal sick leave benefits" was vague as to whether it included paid or unpaid employer-provided sick time, was unclear if it applied to paid sick leave benefits that did not accrue and did not address the effect of collective bargaining agreements. Recognizing this infirmity, the state's General Assembly passed amendments to the act on Jan. 10, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed them into law three days later. The amendments are intended to remove the ambiguities and vagaries from the original version of the act and may be summarized as follows:

  • The definition of "personal sick leave benefits" includes paid and unpaid employer-provided sick time, regardless of whether it is accrued.
  • Long-term disability, short-term disability and insurance policies are not covered under "personal sick leave benefits."
  • Family members for which sick time may be used now covers stepchildren and domestic partners.
  • Employees may take sick time for family members upon the same terms that they are able to take sick time themselves.
  • When sick time granted in amounts based on years of service rather than on an accrual basis, use of sick time for family members can be limited to one-half of the employee's maximum annual grant.
  • An employer may require written verification from a healthcare provider to verify that the employee's absence fell within the scope of the act if the employer requires verification when the employee uses sick leave for his/her own illness, care, diagnosis or treatment.
  • In the anti-retaliation provision, an employer is not prohibited from applying the terms and conditions of the plan that governs paid sick time.
  • A new section has been added listing employers and employees exempt from the act's coverage:
    • employees of employers that are subject to Title II of the Railway Labor Act
    • employers or employees as defined in either the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act or the Federal Employers' Liability Act, or other comparable law
    • any other employment that the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) exempts under regulations to be promulgated
  • The act expressly does not interfere with any collective bargaining agreement, or should not be construed to invalidate or interfere with any party's power to bargain such an agreement.
  • The IDOL may now adopt regulations to implement the act.

Even with these amendments, ambiguities remain. For example, what happens when an employer provides unlimited paid sick leave? These remaining vagaries make the last amendment granting rulemaking power to the IDOL important. Any remaining questions regarding the proper application of the act may be addressed by the IDOL in its regulations to be promulgated in the future.


Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.

Related Insights