Business Law Alert: Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriages. What This Means To Illinois Employers.

On November 20, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages, making Illinois the 16th state to do so. The new law, which will be known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, will take effect on June 1, 2014.

The new law will affect Illinois employers in several ways.  With respect to employee benefits, same-sex spouses will have the same rights as opposite-sex spouses, including equal rights to participate in retirement plans and employer-sponsored health plans with spousal coverage.  Therefore, it is important that employers review and revise any benefit plan documents which define the term "spouse" to make certain they apply to same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses.

Employee leave policies will also be affected. For example, under the new law, same-sex spouses will now be entitled to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Illinois Family Military Leave Act and the Illinois Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act.  Therefore, employers should update handbooks and policies so that same-sex spouses have the same rights as opposite-sex spouses to all types of leaves of absences.

Illinois employers must also be mindful of the long-standing provision in the Illinois Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on marital status.  Thus, employers may not harass or discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages based on their newly recognized marital status.

There are other employment policies and practices that may be affected by the new law, and this Business Law Alert is not designed to provide a comprehensive list of all issues presented by the new law.

The attorneys at Gozdecki, Del Giudice, Americus & Farkas LLP are prepared to answer any questions you may have regarding this Business Law Alert, and to assist you in reviewing and/or modifying any policies affected by the new law.  If you would like to speak with an attorney about any of the issues raised in this Business Law Alert, please contact your servicing attorney/contact, or send an email to David Americus at d.americus@gozdel.com or Earl Farkas at e.farkas@gozdel.com.  Information contained in this Business Law Alert should not be construed as legal advice or opinion.