Dobbeck: Employees have guaranteed rights for leaves of absence

If you have employees, you have probably heard every reason under the sun for an absence. The following explains those absences that are approved and guaranteed by either the state of Illinois or by the federal government. Most are unpaid but two are paid.

Unpaid time off:
• Jury duty leave. The right of every employee to be absent to serve on a jury is granted under the Jury System Improvement Act of 1978. Under this act, employers must allow their employee time off to serve on a jury. Employers must guarantee seniority and benefits as well as reinstatement upon return. The leave is unpaid although several employers do compensate their employees while serving on a jury. In Illinois, an employer may not request that an employee work on the same day he/she is absent due to jury duty. Your employees are informed of this when they receive jury duty notification from the court. If your handbook states differently, you might want revise it.

• Election judge leave. If you have 25 or more employees, any employee serving as an election judge in federal, state and/or local elections is protected from discipline for serving. The employee needs to inform his/her employer with at least 20 days of notice. Election judge leave protection is limited to 10 percent of an employer’s workforce.

• Victims leave. Applies to employers with 15 or more employees and is similar to FMLA. VESSA allows victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape or stalking to take time off from work to address their problem.

• Military leave. Applies to all employers and affects both state and U.S. armed service members, reservists, guard and first responders. The leave can last up to five years depending on the type and length of service.

• Military leave for spouses and parents. Similar to FMLA but applies to employers with as few as 25 employees. Leave is allowed for spouses and/or parents whose spouse or child has received orders for deployment.

• School Visitation. This right is granted to employees who cannot arrange a time to meet with their child’s school other than during working hours. It is an unpaid leave and limited to eight hours annually regardless of the number of children involved. The parent or guardian must have exhausted other types of paid time including vacation and personal days. Employers may request a two-week notice before the scheduled appointment and require a note from the school after the appointment.

Paid time off:

• Blood donation leave. Applies to employers with 50 or more employees. An employee is allowed to take one or two hours every 56 days to donate either whole blood (one hour) or platelets (two hours). The time is paid.

• Time off to vote. In Illinois, every citizen who is over 18 years of age has the right to vote in local, state and federal elections. If their work schedule conflicts with their polling place hours, employers must allow the employee up to two hours of paid time to vote. In Illinois, polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The employee must provide at least two days advanced notice and the employer has the right to schedule the time off at the beginning or end of the day, whichever is most convenient for the employer.

• If you need help in understanding or developing employment policies, contact Karla Dobbeck , president of Human Resource Techniques Inc. Call 847-289-4504, or email

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