Can I take time off from my job or change my schedule to deal with 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 a victim of a “crime of 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 eight work-weeks of leave during any 12–month period. If your employer employs between one and 14 employees, you can take a total of four 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 consecutively, 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
Who is considered to be a “family or household member” under the law?
A “family or household member” can be any of the following:
- party to a civil union;
- other person related by blood or by present or prior marriage or civil union;
- other person who shares a relationship through a child;
- any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee; and
- persons jointly residing in the same household.1
1 820 ILCS § 180/10(12)
What are the legal definitions of domestic, sexual, and gender violence, as well as a "crime of 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:
- 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:
- 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
For the purpose of this law, “crime of violence” is defined as any act described in the following sections of the Illinois Criminal Code:
- Article 9 (homicide);
- Article 11 (sex offenses);
- Article 12 (bodily harm);
- Article 26.5 (harassing and obscene communications);
- Article 29D (terrorism); and
- Article 33A (armed violence).4
Note: It doesn’t matter whether the abuser was ever arrested or prosecuted for committing any of the above criminal acts or not.
1 820 ILCS 180/10(6); 60/103(1)
2 820 ILCS 180/10(5), (20), (20.5)
3 820 ILCS 180/10(5), (12.5)
4 820 ILCS 180/10(2.5)
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, or a “crime of 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), the employer cannot take any actions against you if, within a reasonable period after the absence, you provide the necessary documents.1
In terms of the proof that you need to give to your employer, you only have to provide proof (“certification”) if the employer asks you for it. You can satisfy this certification requirement by writing a sworn statement saying that:
- you or your family/household member is a victim of domestic, sexual, or gender violence, or a “crime of violence;” and
- the leave is for one of the allowable reasons explained in What legal or medical actions, specifically, can I use my time off from work to do?2
In addition, if you have any of the following documents in your possession, then you need to give one of them, whichever one you prefer, to your employer:
- 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 “crime of violence;”
- a police or court record; or
- other evidence.2
However, if you don’t have any of the above documents, that’s OK. The sworn statement is enough.2
Note: Whenever you ask for time off to deal with these 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.
1 820 ILCS § 180/20(b)
2 820 ILCS § 180/20(c)
Can I ask for “accommodations” at work to keep me safe from domestic, sexual, or gender violence, or a "crime of violence"?
You may have the right to ask for “reasonable” changes at work that will keep you safe from actual or threatened domestic, sexual, or gender violence, or a “crime of violence” and your employer must keep your request confidential. For example, you can request a transfer, reassignment, or modified schedule, a changed telephone number or seating assignment, a lock, or other safety procedures.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), (d)
2 820 ILCS § 180/30(b)(4)