Basic info about the law
Can I take time off from my job or change my schedule to deal with domestic, sexual, or gender violence against me or a family/household member?
Under Illinois State law, an employee who is a victim of domestic, sexual, or gender 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, sexual, or gender violence; or
- to address domestic, sexual, or gender violence.1
If your employer employs 50 or more employees, you can take a total of 12 work-weeks of leave during any 12–month period. If your employer employs between 15 and 49 employees, you can take a total of 8 work-weeks of leave during any 12–month period. If your employer employs between 1 and 14 employees, you can take a total of 4 work-weeks 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.)2 The weeks can be taken at different times (intermittently) or on a reduced work schedule.3
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.4
1 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(1)
2 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(2)
3 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)(3)
4 820 ILCS § 180/25
What are the legal definitions of domestic, sexual, and gender violence?
For the purpose of this law, domestic violence is defined as:
- physical abuse;
- intimidation of a dependent;
- interference with personal liberty; or
- willful deprivation.1
For the purpose of this law, sexual violence is defined as any act described in any of the following crimes, regardless of whether the act resulted in criminal charges, a prosecution, or a conviction:
- all of the crimes listed in Article 11 of the Illinois Criminal Code except Sections 11–35 and 11–45;
For the purpose of this law, gender violence is defined as any of the following, regardless of whether the act resulted in criminal charges, a prosecution, or a conviction:
- a criminal act that is committed, at least in part, on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sex or gender;
- a criminal act that involves a physical intrusion/invasion of a sexual nature under “coercive conditions;” or
- a threat to commit one of the acts described above, which causes the victim to realistically fear that the act will be committed.3
1 820 ILCS 180/10(6); 60/103(1)
2 820 ILCS 180/10(5), (20)
3 820 ILCS 180/10(5), (12.5)
Who 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.1
1 820 ILCS § 180/10(12)
What 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, sexual, or gender violence for you or a family/household member:
- to get an order of protection;
- to get medical help – for example, to see a doctor, mental health counselor, or health care professional, to take care of injuries or health problems caused by domestic, sexual, or gender violence;
- to get legal help – for example, to go to court, prepare for court, testify in court, or to seek help from lawyers or legal counseling;
- to seek domestic, sexual, or gender violence services – for example, going to a domestic violence shelter, domestic or sexual violence program or rape crisis center, etc.; or
- to plan for your safety – for example, 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, sexual, or gender violence or ensure economic security.1
1 See 820 ILCS § 180/20(a)
How 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 or your family/household member is a victim of domestic, sexual, or gender violence; and
- the leave is for one of the allowable reasons1 explained in What legal or medical actions, specifically, can I use my time off from work to do?
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, sexual, or gender violence; or a police or court record; or other evidence.1
Note: Whenever you ask for time off to deal with issues related to domestic, sexual, or gender violence, 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.
1 820 ILCS § 180/20(c)
Can I ask for “accommodations” at work to keep me safe from domestic, sexual, or gender violence?
You may have the right to ask for “reasonable” changes at work that will keep you safe from domestic, sexual, or gender 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, sexual, or gender violence, or threats of domestic, sexual, or gender violence.1
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.”2
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, sexual, or gender violence issues.
1 820 ILCS § 180/30(a)(1)(C)
2 820 ILCS § 180/30(b)(4)
What your employer can and cannot do
Is it legal for my employer to harass me or tell my co-workers if I take time off to deal with domestic, sexual, or gender violence?
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, or gender violence issues or because you are a victim.1
Also, the law requires your employer to keep your domestic, sexual, or gender 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, sexual, or gender violence. Your employer also cannot 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, sexual, or gender violence situation.2
1 820 ILCS § 180/30
2 820 ILCS § 180/20(d)
I got fired from my job after taking time off for domestic, sexual, or gender 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, sexual, or gender 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, sexual, or gender violence issues.1 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, sexual, or gender violence situation. For example, if you took off from work to deal with domestic, sexual, or gender violence issues and six months later, your company fired 200 workers based on budget cuts, you can 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, sexual, or gender violence issues, then you might want to contact an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination or contact the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
1 820 ILCS § 180/30