Employment Law Tip for Illinois Employers #4: Disaster Service Leave with Pay

In the light of the recent tornadoes, high winds and hail spawned by the storm system that's killed 31 people in the past week, we thought it would be helpful to inform Illinois employers regarding the little known laws in this state that allow employees disaster service leave with pay.  According to Section 303.175 of the Illinois Administrative Code, any employee, except those employed on a temporary, emergency or per diem status, who is either a certified disaster service volunteer of the American Red Cross, a volunteer for assignment to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in accordance with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act [20 ILCS 3305] or the Emergency Management Assistance Compact Act [45 ILCS 151]  may be granted leave with pay for up to 20 working days in any 12-month period for disasters within Illinois.  The leave may be granted upon request of the American Red Cross and approval of the employee's agency.  Disasters must be disasters designated at a Level III and above or any disaster declared by proclamation of the Governor under Section 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

If the above does not apply (i.e. if the disaster does not reach the required level or the American Red Cross does not request the leave on behalf of the employee), Illinois law provides protection for those volunteer emergency workers in the event an emergency causes them to be late or miss time for work.

50 ILCS 748/5 (a) states:

No public or private employer may terminate an employee who is a volunteer emergency worker because the employee, when acting as a volunteer emergency worker, is absent from or late to his or her employment in order to respond to an emergency prior to the time the employee is to report to his or her place of employment. (b) An employer may charge, against the employee's regular pay, any time that an employee who is a volunteer emergency worker loses from employment because of the employee's response to an emergency in the course of performing his or her duties as a volunteer emergency worker. (c) In the case of an employee who is a volunteer emergency worker and who loses time from his or her employment in order to respond to an emergency in the course of performing his or her duties as a volunteer emergency worker, the employer has the right to request the employee to provide the employer with a written statement from the supervisor or acting supervisor of the volunteer fire department or governmental entity that the volunteer emergency worker serves stating that the employee responded to an emergency and stating the time and date of the emergency. (d) An employee who is a volunteer emergency worker and who may be absent from or late to his or her employment in order to respond to an emergency in the course of performing his or her duties as a volunteer emergency worker must make a reasonable effort to notify his or her employer that he or she may be absent or late.

Luckily, these laws only come into play sparingly due to the infrequent nature of disasters reaching to the levels described above.  Even so, employers should be aware of the laws and their implications.  Weather and natural disasters are unpredictable and seem to be occurring with much more frequency in the recent years.   Many other states throughout the country have laws similar to those described above.   For more information on these laws or any further employment related matters, please contact Dana Perminas, at (312) 334-3474 or dperminas@messerstrickler.com for more information.