Editorial: Understanding the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act
Illinois has some of the most comprehensive victim rights in the country, secured in both the
Illinois Constitution as well as legislative statutes. One of the programs afforded to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, gender violence and most recently added any crime of violence (2022), is the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act or VESSA. The law is intended to provide much needed employment protections to victims needing to take time off to heal in the aftermath of violence perpetrated against them or a family member. The statistics referenced in the original 2003 law are staggering, and this was prior to the 2022 expansion.
While VESSA does not provide paid leave, it can protect from attendance dings and provide job security while a survivor struggles to attempt to restore their life through counseling, civil remedies, attorney appointments, criminal court dates and even relocation.
The inherent problem in VESSA is that an employee must notify their employer of why they’re asking for VESSA protections, which can be a very private matter. Many victims elect not to report to police due to the stigma, and yet VESSA does require that you tell your employer. The employer can ask for proof and require the employee to sign a certification. While employers are required to keep the information confidential, this can be absolutely problematic in smaller offices. While VESSA is well-intentioned and ever-evolving, perhaps with the new wording of “any crime of violence” a better way would be to notify the employer initially with the request as a victim of a crime and let the Department of Labor perform the certifications and learn the specifics.
VESSA is housed in Illinois’ employment law and governed by the Department of Labor. Please reach out to Clove Alliance’s Advocacy Department at [email protected] if you’ve been a victim of sexual or gender violence, and we can help you navigate your rights.
Author: Jane Binner, Legal & Medical Advocate at Clove Alliance