New bill would allow airline employees to take sick time for relatives

Illinois-based flight attendants and other airline employees would be able to use paid sick leave to attend to their families under a new proposal in Springfield.

Railway and airline employees are exempt from Illinois’ Employee Sick Leave Act, meaning flight attendants and other airline workers cannot use their earned sick days to care for a sick relative, as others have been able to since the law was expanded in 2017.

Flight attendant Corliss King’s husband was diagnosed with renal cancer. She says the loss of not only his income but her own was difficult.

“Overnight, the financial burden rested solely on me for the care of our family,” she said, adding that their schedules of short weeks with long hours resulted in a larger loss of income. “Missing one day for him being in the doctor’s office to get medical attention means losing one week of work.”

State Sen. Michael Hastings’ legislation would simply remove airline employees from the exempted group in the law.

“Whether it’s battling renal failure, whatever the circumstance may be, they should be able to take sick leave for their family members,” the Tinley Park Democrat said.

Hastings says the same change has been made in Maryland and Georgia, allowing for airline employees to take sick leave for immediate family.

It now awaits a committee hearing.

Airline groups have sued other states in the past for sick-leave policies, saying expanded sick leave laws would create an undue burden on the industry, resulting in more cancellations and higher prices for flights.

“Airline employees have long received generous paid sick leave benefits through nationwide, industry-specific collective bargaining agreements or airline policies (at nonunionized carriers) that mirror those CBA provisions,” said Carter Yang, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, a public interest group with members consisting of ten of the nation’s largest passenger and freight carriers. “The sick leave policies negotiated by the employees and their airlines carefully balance both the need for employees to stay home when they or a relative are sick as well as the carriers’ need to ensure reliable flight operations and compliance with complex federal regulations governing the industry.”


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