On August 20, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an amendment to the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) effective January 1, 2022. VESSA entitles employees who are victims (or whose family members are victims) of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence to take unpaid job-protected leave from work. Illinois employers should make any necessary adjustments to their VESSA policies or leave request processes prior to January 1, 2022. This article provides an overview of VESSA and highlights the changes from the recent amendment.

Covered Employers

VESSA applies to employers with 15 or more employees with at least 1 employee in the state of Illinois.

Amount of Leave

The amount of VESSA leave an employee is entitled to depends on the size of the employer as follows:

  • An employee working for an employer with at least 1, but not more than 14 employees, is entitled to a total of 4 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.
  • An employee working for an employer with at least 15, but not more than 49 employees, is entitled to a total of 8 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.
  • An employee working for an employer with at least 50 employees are entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.

Qualifying Reasons

VESSA provides employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence, and employees who have a family or household member who is a victim of such violence, with unpaid, job-protected leave, reasonable accommodations, and protections from discrimination and retaliation. This time may be used if the employee or the employee’s family or household member is:

  • experiencing an incident of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence;
  • is recovering from the violence;
  • is seeking or receiving medical help, legal assistance (including participation in legal proceedings), counseling, safety planning, or other assistance;
  • temporarily or permanently relocating; or
  • to take other actions to increase the safety of the victim from future domestic, sexual, or gender violence, or to ensure economic security.

Changes effective January 1, 2022:

  • VESSA will now permit leave relating to a “crime of violence,” which can include sex offenses, assault, harassment and obscene communication, armed violence, and other crimes.
  • Employees can now take VESSA leave for a much broader group of family members, including grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, or any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee.

Required Notice Posting

Employers must post a notice in their workplace summarizing the VESSA requirements. Copies of this notice may be acquired by contacting the Illinois Department of Labor or by downloading the notice from the agency’s home page.

Employee Notice and Certification

Employees must provide the employer with at least 48 hours prior notice of the leave, unless providing advance notice is not practicable. If an employee is unable to provide advance notice, an employee must provide notice when an employee is able to do so, within a reasonable period of time after the absence.

An employer may require the employee to provide certification of the domestic, sexual, or gender violence and that leave is needed to address the violence. Certification may include a sworn statement of the employee and other documentation such as a letter from a victims’ services organization, a court record, or any other corroborating evidence, but only if that documentation is in the possession of the employee.

Effective January 1, 2022:

  • The amendments clarifies that the employee can choose the type of documentation to submit to the employer for certification and an employer cannot request or require more than one document to be submitted during the same 12-month period leave is requested.


The VESSA amendments add a confidentiality provision that requires all information provided to the employer to be retained in the strictest confidence except to the extent that the disclosure is: (1) requested or consented to in writing by the employee; or (2) otherwise required by applicable federal or state law.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2021 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lizet Ramirez — Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.