Victims’ Economic Security & Safety Act (VESSA)

Since the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act of 1986, State and Local levels of government have implemented many programs and Acts to ensure that victims of domestic violence receive the necessary assistance in leaving their abusive situation, as well as the guidance and protection that remains imperative to their physical, emotional and mental recovery and well-being.

The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act, implemented in 2003, grants employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, as well as family or household members of the victim, up to 12 weeks of leave from work per any 12-month period, in order to seek medical attention or recover from physical or psychological injuries, obtain victim services and/or counseling, participate in safety planning to avoid future domestic or sexual violence and to seek legal assistance to ensure their safety and/or participate in any court proceedings related to the violence. Employers are required to post a notice in their workplace summarizing the requirements under this Act.

As of January 1st 2017, even an employer with one employee is subject to VESSA.  An employer with up to 14 employees must allow up to four weeks of unpaid leave to handle VESSA issues.  An employer with at least 15 employees, but not more than 49 employees, is required to allow a total of 8 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for any employee who is a victim or family/household member of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. An employer with at least 50 employees is required to allow a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for any employee who is a victim or family/household member of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. The Illinois Department of Labor administers and enforces all provisions of this Act and has the power to conduct investigations related to the Act. Any employee who believes their rights under this Act have been violated may file a complaint with the Department within 3 years of the alleged violation.

Except in cases where it is impractical to do so, the employee shall provide at least a 48 hour notice to their employer of their intention to take VESSA leave. For any unscheduled absence, the employer cannot take action against the employee, so long as the employee provides certification or other evidence relating to their absence, within a reasonable amount of time after the employer’s request.

In order to satisfy the certification requirement of their employer, the employee can provide a sworn statement along with any documentation from a victim services’ organization, attorney, or other professionals from whom the employee or employee’s family or household member has sought assistance, a police or court record, or other corroborating evidence relating to their VESSA leave.

There are penalties that may be implemented against the employer, should the Department of Labor find that any provision of the Act has been violated. The employer is prohibited from interfering with an employee’s rights under this act and from retaliating against the employee in any form or manner. The penalties that can be enforced against the employer include 1) paying damages to the employee, in an amount equal to the wages, salary, benefits, public assistance or other compensation denied with interest being applied, 2) providing relief in the form of reinstatement, promotion, reasonable accommodations, etc., and 3) paying reasonable attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees and any other costs associated with the action. If an employer fails to pay the damages within 30 days after the order is entered is liable to pay a penalty of 1% per day to the employee for each day of delay in paying said damages.

This Act was put into place in an attempt to ensure that victims of domestic and sexual violence are allowed the necessary assistance and relief during a very difficult time. The provisions set forth in this Act would otherwise remain at the discretion of the employer and would most likely result in employees staying in their abusive situation, due to their inability to take the necessary steps in leaving and recovering from domestic or sexual violence.

If   you would like to discuss Orders of Protection or other issues involving the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, please contact our office for a free consultation at 815.600.8950 or visit our website at www.sterkfamilylaw.com.

 

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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