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Know the Laws: Illinois

UPDATED September 19, 2017

Workplace Protections

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Illinois state law provides employment protections for domestic or sexual violence victims who need to take time off from work to handle issues related to domestic or sexual violence.

Basic info about the law

back to topCan I take time off from my job or change my schedule to deal with domestic violence against me or a family/household member?

Yes.  Under Illinois State law, an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence or who has a family/household member who is a victim may take unpaid leave from work if:

  • the employee or his/her family or household member is experiencing an incident of domestic or sexual violence; or
  • to address domestic or sexual violence.* 

If your employer employs at least 50 employees, you can take a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12–month period. If your employer employs at least 15 but not more than 49 employees, you can take a total of 8 workweeks of leave during any 12–month period.  If your employer employs at least 1 but not more than 14 employees, you can take a total of 4 workweeks of leave during any 12–month period.  (However, if you have already taken 12 weeks off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, this law does not permit you to take additional time.)**  The weeks can be taken intermittently (at different times) or on a reduced work schedule.***

You can also use existing paid leave (including family, medical, sick, annual, personal, or similar leave) instead of taking the unpaid leave but you cannot be required to do so - it's your choice whether to use paid leave or unpaid leave.****

* 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(1)
** 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(2)​
*** 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(3)​
**** 820 ILCS § 180/25

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back to topWho is considered to be a “family or household member” under the law?

A “family or household member” can be a a spouse, parent, son, daughter, other person related by blood or by present or prior marriage, other person who shares a relationship through a son or daughter, and persons jointly residing in the same household.*

* 820 ILCS § 180/10(12)

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back to topWhat legal or medical actions, specifically, can I use my time off from work to do?

Your employer must let you take time off from work to do the any of the following things, if they are related to domestic or sexual violence for you or a family/household member:

  • to get an order of protection;
  • to get medical help (to see a doctor, mental health counselor, or health care professional, to take care of injuries or health problems caused by domestic or sexual violence);
  • to get legal help (to go to court, prepare for court, testify in court, or to seek help from lawyers or legal counseling);
  • to seek domestic or sexual violence services (to go to a domestic violence shelter, domestic or sexual violence program or rape crisis center, if you are going to seek help for domestic or sexual violence); or
  • to plan for your safety (to participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate to other housing, or take other actions to increase the safety of you or your family/ household member from future domestic or sexual violence or ensure economic security).*

* See 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)

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back to topHow much advance notice do I need to give my employer to take time off from work? And what proof do I need to provide?

You must give your employer at least 48 hours' advance notice of your intention to take the leave, unless providing such notice is impossible.  When an unscheduled absence occurs (one where you did not give advance notice), you must provide a sworn statement within a reasonable period after the absence saying that:

You also have to provide documentation from a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional from who you sought help from in addressing domestic or sexual violence; or a police or court record; or other evidence.*

Note: Whenever you ask for time off to deal with domestic or sexual violence related issues, it might be a good idea to ask your employer in writing, and to keep a copy of the letter.  This way, if the employer denies you the time off, you have some proof that you asked for it in case you decide to bring legal action against the employer for violating the law.

* 820 ILCS § 180/20(c)

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back to topCan I ask for “accommodations” at work to keep me safe from domestic or sexual violence?

You may have the right to ask for “reasonable” changes at work that will keep you safe from domestic or sexual violence.  For example, you can request a transfer, reassignment, or modified schedule, a changed telephone number or seating assignment, a lock, or other safety procedures, in response to domestic or sexual violence, or threats of domestic or sexual violence.*

Your employer can deny your request for accommodations (changes) at work if your employer can show that the changes you are seeking are too hard for them to do.  For example, if it would be too expensive, would cause other problems at work, or would not allow for work to get done in your department, then they can deny your request as being an “undue hardship.”**

You might want to consult with your local branch of the Illinois Human Rights Commission if you have any questions about your employer denying your request for accommodations at work.

Note: Although Illinois law does not require that you make the request for an accommodation in writing, it might be a good idea to do so.  This way, you can be clear to your employer about what types of changes you need, and you have proof that you asked for the changes if your employer denies your request and you choose to pursue legal action against the employer.  You might want to include copies of court records, police reports, or the same type of information that you would show to your employer if you were requesting time off from work for domestic or sexual violence issues.

* 820 ILCS § 180/30(a)(1)(C)
** 820 ILCS § 180/30(b)(4)

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What your employer can and cannot do

back to topIs it legal for my employer to harass me or tell my co-workers if I take time off to deal with domestic or sexual violence?

No.  Your employer cannot fire you, harass you, or punish you in any way just because you ask for and/or take this time off to deal with domestic/sexual violence issues or because you are a victim.*

Also, the law requires your employer to keep your domestic violence or sexual violence situation private (confidential).  For example, your employer cannot tell your co-workers, your clients, or other employers that you took time off to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault.  Your employer also cannot disclose (talk about or write about) the reason for your time off.  They must also keep private any documents that you give them that relate to your domestic violence or sexual assault situation.**

* 820 ILCS § 180/30
** 820 ILCS § 180/20(d)

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back to topI got fired from my job after taking time off for domestic violence. Is that legal?

The law says that your employer cannot fire you or punish you because you took off time from work to address your domestic violence issues.  They also cannot fire you or punish you because you asked for or were given “accommodations” (changes) at work to help you with your domestic or sexual violence issues.*  However, your employer can still fire you or punish you for other valid reasons (such as budget cuts, not doing your job well, or reasons that have nothing to do with your domestic or sexual violence situation).  For example, if you took off from work to deal with domestic violence issues and six months later, your company fired 200 workers based on budget cuts, it doesn't mean that you cannot be fired too.

Note: Sometimes, an employer will offer a fake reason for firing someone, to hide the real reason.  If you have facts or evidence that: (1) your employer is not being truthful about why they fired you; and (2) that the real reason they fired you was because you took off time for domestic or sexual violence related issues, then you might want to contact an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination or the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

* 820 ILCS § 180/30

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