Recent amendments to the Illinois Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”) went into effect on January 1, 2022. Under VESSA, employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence (or whose family members or household members are victims of such violence) may take up to 12-weeks of leave to address issues related to the violence. The amendments change certain aspects of this right by expanding the definition of covered individuals and reasons for leave, modifying documentation requirements for leave, including a confidentiality provision, and expanding the non-discrimination provision of the Act.
Covered Individuals and Reasons for Leave: The amended VESSA expands the definition of “family or household member” to include a broader group of individuals, including a party to a civil union, grandparent, grandchild, or any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee.
The amended VESSA also expands when an employee can take leave. The amendments allow employees to take leave if they or a family or household member is the victim of “any other crime of violence” covered by certain sections of Illinois’ Criminal Code. This includes homicide, sex offenses, bodily harm, harassing and obscene communications, terrorism, and armed violence.
Modifying Documentation Requirements for Leave: The Act’s documentation requirements for leave have also been amended. Prior to the amendment, employees had to provide a sworn statement to their employer with specific documentation that they or a family or household member was the victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence.
Now, such documentation must be provided only if the employee possesses such documents. Further, the employee can decide which documents to submit from a list provided in the Act and the employer cannot request or require more than one document submission during the same 12-month period if the reason for leave is related to the same incident or incidents of violence or the same perpetrator.
Confidentiality Provision: The amendments to VESSA include a confidentiality provision requiring information provided to the employer be retained in the strictest confidence. This includes any documentation, record, corroborating evidence, and the fact that the employee requested or obtained VESSA leave.
Non-discrimination Provision: Finally, the amendments to VESSA expands the definition of discrimination to include job applicants and employees perceived to be victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, gender violence, or any other crime of violence.
Should you have any questions concerning these new developments, please do not hesitate to contact our team of professionals.
Rafael E. Lázaro is a founding member of Lázaro Law Group, LLC. With a particular emphasis on sexual harassment, Mr. Lázaro has dedicated his career to improving the workplace.