Taking Time to Grieve: The Illinois Child Bereavement Act

A new Illinois law requires employers with at least 50 employees to provide FMLA-eligible employees up to 10 workdays of unpaid leave to attend a child’s funeral (or its alternative), to make necessary arrangements resulting from the death of a child, or to grieve a child’s death. The new law, aptly titled the Child Bereavement Leave Act, took effect on July 29, 2016

The Act defines “child” as “an employee’s son or daughter who is a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.” There is no age limit in the definition of child. The Act applies to “eligible employees” and “employers” as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The Act requires that the employee provide at least 48 hours’ notice of the intention to take leave, unless providing that notice is not “reasonable and practicable.” The bereavement leave must be taken within 60 days after the date the employee receives notice of the child’s death, and employers may require reasonable documentation of a child’s death, including a death certification, published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency.

The Act also provides protection against employers who retaliate against employees for exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the Act, who oppose practices which they believe violates the Act, and who support the exercise of rights of another under the Act. The Act goes on to specify that:

Exercising rights under this Act includes filing an action or instituting or causing to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act; providing or agreeing to provide any information in connection with any inquiry or proceeding relating to any right provided under this Act; or testifying to or agreeing to testify in any inquiry or proceeding relating to any right provided under this Act.

Employers who violate the anti-retaliation provision, or any other provision of the Act or rule adopted under the Act, may be subject to a civil penalty for each employee affected. The penalty can be up to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Employees who believe their employer has violated the Act have 60 days from the date of an alleged violation to pursue a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or file a civil action in state court.

Employers should update their leave policies and handbooks to reflect this change in Illinois law. If you would like additional information on how this law might affect you or your business, please contact HeplerBroom’s Employment Law Practice Group.

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Kerri Forsythe

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