On January 1, 2017, the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (“ESLA”) went into effect, requiring employers who provide employees with “personal sick leave benefits” to allow employees to use such benefits to care for certain family members. On January 10, 2017, the Illinois General Assembly passed several amendments to the ESLA. Governor Rauner signed the amendments into law on January 13, 2017.

Under the amended ESLA, an employee may use personal sick leave benefits provided by the employer for absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of the employee’s “child, stepchild, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent, on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use personal sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.”

Under the ESLA, an employer may request written verification of the employee’s absence from a health care professional if such verification is required under the employer’s employment benefit plan or paid time off policy.  Further, the ESLA states that it should not be construed as invalidating or interfering with any collective bargaining agreements, or any party’s power to collectively bargain.  In addition, the ESLA states that an employer who provides personal sick leave benefits or a paid time off policy that would otherwise provide benefits as required under ESLA shall not be required to modify such benefits.

For school district employers, the School Code already provides for a sick leave accrual/use system; however, it differs slightly from the ESLA.  In particular, the School Code allows the use of sick leave for “personal illness, quarantine at home, serious illness or death in the immediate family or household…” and further defines “immediate family” as “parents, spouse, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and legal guardians.”  The terms “medical appointment,” “stepchild,” “domestic partner,” and “stepparent” used in the ESLA do not appear in the School Code.  Thus, employers should review closely their own sick leave programs to determine whether they meet the requirements of ESLA.

Finally, the ESLA also granted the Illinois Department of Labor the authority to draft rules to implement the law.