What is the Family Bereavement Leave Act?

Losing a loved one is never an easy experience. It is filled with pain, regret, and a whole miasma of negative emotions. It is understandable that somebody would want to take some time for themselves, away from the hustle and bustle of the workforce, in order to deal with the experience.

Thankfully, Illinois has made some important changes in 2022 that will allow people the time they need to mourn through the enactment of the Family Bereavement Leave Act. This act, designed to fill a gap that the federal Family Medical Leave Act left open, guarantees up to two weeks, or ten days, of unpaid leave following the death of a family member.

To better understand how the Family Bereavement Leave Act (FBLA) works, our experienced employment lawyers will first take a look at the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While this will allow us to understand how the FBLA addresses an issue that the FMLA misses, it is also important to note that these two systems work closely together. We’ll learn more about the interaction between the two, as well as exactly what the FBLA covers, below.

What is the Federal Family Medical Leave Act?

The FMLA makes it so that covered employees of covered employers can take twelve weeks of unpaid leave within a twelve-month period should they be faced with a serious medical condition. It may also be used to take time to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent. Additionally, you may also use it to take up to twelve weeks of leave to take care of a newborn child or a child that has been newly adopted. There are also rules specifically for those who have a loved one called to active duty.

The one thing that is missing from all of this is bereavement leave. The FMLA does not allow any bereavement leave. Illinois decided to put the FBLA into action to make up for this shortcoming. But before we talk about that, you may have noticed that we used the term “covered employees” and “covered employers,” but there’s a good chance that you didn’t know what that was referring to.

In order to qualify for medical leave under the rules of the FMLA, you must work for an organization that is covered by FMLA, and you must meet certain criteria in order to qualify yourself. If you have at least 50 employees, you will be a covered employer and will be required to post a notice saying that you are. Covered employees are individuals who have worked for a covered employer for at least twelve months, have worked 1,250 hours in the last twelve months, and work within 75 miles of at least 49 other employees.

If you are qualified for leave under FMLA, then you should be qualified for leave under FBLA, though for different reasons.

How Does Illinois’s Family Bereavement Leave Act Work?

What Illinois’s Family Bereavement Leave Act does is guarantee two weeks, or ten working days, of unpaid leave when a family member passes away. It was originally called the Child Bereavement Leave Act when it was enacted on July 29, 2016, but the changes put into place in 2022 make it much more widely available.

Nobody would argue that two weeks is enough time to mourn the loss of a loved one fully. The healing that needs to take place is going to take longer than the FBLA gives you. But the idea behind the FBLA is that those who have lost a loved one need time, not just to heal but also to deal with the sudden administrative tasks thrust on them, like planning or attending a funeral, dealing with probate lawyers, and the like. The FBLA allows you the time you need to take care of this stuff, so you don’t have to try to balance work at the same time.

Note, too, that if you lose more than one person in a twelve-month period, then you are entitled to take six weeks of leave within that period.

Rather than just allowing time off following the death of an infant, the FBLA allows time off following the death of a:

  • Child
  • Stepchild
  • Sibling
  • Parent
  • Mother-in-Law
  • Father-in-Law
  • Grandchild
  • Grandparent
  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Stepparent

In addition to the changes represented by that list, additional changes were made to when bereavement leave is allowed. Rather than just being for a death, bereavement leave may also be taken for:

  • A miscarriage
  • A stillbirth
  • A diagnosis that negatively affects a pregnancy
  • A diagnosis that negatively affects an individual’s fertility
  • An unsuccessful round of intrauterine insemination
  • A failed adoption match
  • A failed surrogacy agreement
  • An adoption that is contested and therefore not finalized
  • An unsuccessful round of an assisted reproductive technology procedure

So if you have suffered a recognized bereavement, you can take two weeks through the FBLA. However, this may be limited based on whether you have recently made use of the FMLA.

What Limitations Does the Family Bereavement Leave Act Have?

The biggest limitation of the FBLA is the way that it interacts with the FMLA. The FBLA allows you to take two weeks following a death, while the FMLA lets you take twelve weeks for medical reasons. If you have already taken those twelve weeks, then you cannot take two weeks through the FBLA.

However, if you have taken two weeks through the FBLA, then you can still take twelve weeks through the FMLA. That means that you can take the two weeks and then still take twelve, for a total of fourteen weeks in a twelve-month period. If, however, you took eleven weeks of FMLA leave, then you would only be able to take one week of leave through the FBLA.

Can an Employment Lawyer Help?

While you should not expect to run into any problems with the FBLA, reality is often a lot more difficult and frustrating than it is supposed to be. Employers may try to avoid their responsibility through devious means. If you are having problems, then it may be best to seek out a case evaluation with an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about the options that are available to you and how to best leverage them.