The Illinois Victim Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA)

Illinois provides protection for employees that are the victims, or have family members that are victims, of domestic or sexual violence under the Illinois Victim Economic Safety and Security Act 820 ILCS 180/1 et seq (VESSA).  Affected employees are allowed to take unpaid leave and request accommodations to secure their safety.  Under the law, family members include a spouse, parent, child, or resident of such household as well as “any person related by blood or by present or prior marriage and any other person that shares a relationship through a son or daughter.”

Under VESSA, affected Full-time or Part-time employees working at companies with at least 15 employees within the past year are entitled to between 8 and 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12 month period, (depending on the size of the employer). Leave can be taken for a variety of reasons but must be related to the domestic or sexual violence, including seeing a lawyer, going to court, seeing a doctor or counselor, or taking measures to secure your future safety.  To request leave, you must tell your employer that you need time off due to domestic or sexual violence.

If possible, you are to tell your employer 48 hours prior to the time you need to take off.  Your employer can ask for proof, including a sworn statement or any other type of evidence (court order, letter from doctor, or other proof). This information is to be kept confidential unless you permit your employer to share it, or if required by law.

While you are on leave, your employer is required to maintain your health insurance benefit and is required to hold your job (or a very similar job) for you, with the same seniority and benefits. While your employer cannot terminate you for exercising rights under VESSA like taking leave, they can still terminate you for unrelated job performance problems.

Besides taking leave, your employer is required to grant you reasonable accommodations to help you stay safe at work, unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer.  Depending on the situation, examples include things like changing your phone extension to prevent harassing calls, or changing your work location or hours.

Your employer cannot harass, discriminate or retaliate against you as a victim of domestic or sexual violence for taking leave or for requesting an accommodation to help you stay safe at work.  Employers are required to post a notice of your rights under VESSA.

If you are having difficulty with your employer because you, or your family member, are a victim of domestic or sexual violence, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to further discuss your situation.

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