Understanding the Illinois Family Leave Act
In Illinois, the rights of employees to take leave for family or medical reasons are governed by both federal and state laws. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is complemented by the Illinois Family Leave Act (IFLA), providing a framework for eligible employees to take time off for specific family and medical reasons without fear of losing their jobs.
To be eligible for leave under the IFLA, an employee must work for a covered employer, have worked for that employer for at least 12 months, and have clocked at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave.
Key Provisions of the IFLA
The IFLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for certain family and medical reasons. These reasons include:
- The birth and care of a newborn child of the employee
- The placement of a child for adoption or foster care
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job
- Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that an employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on "covered active duty"
Under certain conditions, an employee may choose or an employer may require the use of accrued paid leave while taking FMLA leave.
Job Protection and Health Benefits
During FMLA/IFLA leave, employers must maintain the employee's health benefits under any group health plan on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work. Upon return from FMLA/IFLA leave, most employees must be restored to their original or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
Notice and Documentation Requirements
Employees seeking IFLA leave may be required to provide:
- 30 days advance notice when the leave is foreseeable
- Medical certification supporting the need for leave due to a serious health condition affecting the employee or an immediate family member
- Periodic recertification supporting the need for leave
An employer may also request a second or third opinion at the employer's expense.
Historical Context and Examples
The FMLA was signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as a federal statute aimed at balancing workplace demands with family needs. The IFLA extends this commitment at a state level. For example, if an Illinois employee's spouse is deployed overseas with the military, they may use IFLA leave to manage their legal and financial affairs or attend military events.