On April 16, 2020, in a long-awaited opinion, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that teachers may use sick leave for the birth of a child only for the six-week period immediately following the birth. If a teacher is still unable to come to work after this period, the school district may request a physician’s approval before a teacher can use sick leave for a longer period of time. The practical effect of this decision is a teacher who gives birth with less than six weeks left in the school year (or during the first half of summer vacation) will be unable to use sick leave at the beginning of the following school year without a note from the doctor. Based on the court’s ruling, if holidays and winter and spring vacation occur during the six-week period after the birth, such vacations or holidays also would not extend the six-week period for a teacher to use sick leave without a doctor’s note.
The case arose when a teacher gave birth at the end of the 2015-2016 school year and requested to use 1.5 sick days at the end of that school year and another 28.5 days at the start of the next school year. The school district granted her request for the 1.5 sick days, but denied the 28.5 sick days at the start of the next school year on the basis that sick leave under the School Code would no longer apply at the start of the next school year (while appropriately granting her unpaid FMLA leave for child-rearing purposes that Fall).
The Court did not address the use of sick leave for pregnancy-related disabilities before birth, as was pointed out by two justices who concurred in the opinion. However, federal pregnancy discrimination laws require the payment of sick leave for disabilities occurring before pregnancy.
HLERK filed an amicus brief on behalf of IASB and IASA, supporting the school district’s application of the sick leave statute in this case.