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General Assembly Passes Legislation For COVID-19-Related Paid Administrative Leave For School and Public College and University Employees

Education Higher Education

On October 28, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that, if signed by Governor Pritzker, will provide mandatory paid administrative leave for school and Illinois public college and university employees for COVID-19-related absences. The legislation which can be found here provides for paid administrative leave for any school, college, or university employee that must quarantine for the length of time as required to abide by public health guidance, mandate, and requirements issued by the Department of Public Health, unless a longer period of paid administrative leave has been negotiated with the exclusive bargaining representative. The legislation also provides for administrative leave for employees who need to care for a child who is unable to attend school because their child is a confirmed COVID-19 case, is suspected to be a COVID-19 case, or is a close contact of a person who is a confirmed COVID-19 case. There are no limits on how many times employees can take these administrative leave days or the number of days available for such leave. To be eligible, however, the employee must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. At the employer’s request, employees are required to provide appropriate documentation to support the administrative leave. The administrative leave does not accumulate and does not count against an employee’s existing paid time off. This leave is only applicable while the Governor has declared a disaster due to a public health emergency pursuant to Section 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

Notably, per the current version of the legislation, any sick days previously taken by a school district employee in accordance with COVID-19 guidance issued by the State and/or its agencies since the beginning of the 20-21 school year must be returned to the employee. This provision also does not apply to college and university employees.

The legislation also requires school districts to provide all school personnel, including custodial, transportation, food service workers, classroom assistants, and administrative staff, their regular daily rate of pay and benefits for any days in which a school is closed in accordance with the District’s COVID-19 policies. School districts are also required to make full payment to contractors who provide educational support services during any school closure or e-learning day related to COVID-19 if the closure prevents them from performing their regular duties and the employees would have reported but for the closure. This provision does not apply to colleges and universities.

This legislation overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly and is pending the Governor’s signature. It is uncertain if Governor Pritzker will sign the legislation or use his amendatory-veto power. However, even if the Governor exercises his veto power, it is possible that the General Assembly will override it. If the legislation becomes law, it will likely have serious budgetary and staffing repercussions for schools and public colleges and universities across Illinois. Existing agreements between employers and unions related to COVID leave will likely also need to be revisited We will continue to monitor the status of the legislation and provide updates as they become available.