Governor Pritzker Vetoes HB 2778; Announces Collaborative Initiative to Provide Paid Leave for Vaccinated School District, Public University and Community College Employees

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker released an official statement this week vetoing HB 2778 and announcing in its place a joint initiative reflecting a compromise with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and other stakeholders intended to keep students and teachers in classrooms without penalizing vaccinated employees who take COVID-19-related sick time. The initiative as announced would aim to advance legislation that requires school districts, public universities and public community colleges to provide paid leave to all vaccinated employees when excluded for COVID-19 related reasons (or when their child is excluded); restore sick leave for those vaccinated employees who previously used sick time for such reasons; and maintain wage protections from HB 2778 for all hourly school employees when required to miss work as a result of school closures or e-learning days due to COVID-19 during the 2021-2022 school year.

The joint initiative has no legal effect without further action from the General Assembly, and to that end the Governor communicated his intent to partner “with members of the General Assembly and stakeholders to advance and sign legislation” that incorporates the benefits outlined in the joint initiative. Specifically, the joint initiative aims to provide the following protections:

  • Paid administrative leave for every employee of a public school district established under Article 10 or Article 34 of the School Code, public university, and public community college who is
    • fully vaccinated or has received the required doses to become fully vaccinated within five weeks of the effective date of the Act and who
    • is required, or whose child is required, to be excluded from school because of a positive COVID-19 test result, a close contact with a person who had a confirmed case of COVID-19, or a school or school district policy requiring absence due to COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Restoration of sick leave for every employee of a public school district, public university, and public community college who
    • is fully vaccinated or has received the required doses to become fully vaccinated within five weeks of the effective date of the Act, and
    • has previously used their sick time because they or their child were required to be excluded from school because of a positive COVID-19 test result, a close contact with a person who had a confirmed case of COVID-19, or a school or school district policy requiring absence due to COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Maintains wage protections in HB2778 for all hourly school employees, including but not limited to, custodial, transportation, food service providers, classroom assistants, or administrative staff required to miss work during a school closure or e-learning day due to COVID-19 during the 2021-2022 school year.

As we previously reported, HB 2778, which passed the Illinois General Assembly in October 2021 with a veto-proof majority, would have provided paid administrative leave to such employees regardless of vaccination status; guaranteed payment to all school personnel at their normal rate of pay in the event schools are closed in accordance with public health mandates; and guaranteed a return of sick days to a school district employee who used such sick days in accordance with COVID-19 guidance, regardless of vaccination status. Governor Pritzker was critical of the original legislation’s application of unlimited leave to both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. As a result, Governor Pritzker publicly threatened to veto the legislation but invited the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and other stakeholders to negotiate changes to the legislation, resulting in the collaborative initiative announced yesterday that limits its protections to vaccinated employees or employees who become fully vaccinated within five weeks of the effective day of the Act.

In response to the Governor’s veto, because the General Assembly passed HB 2778 with a veto-proof majority, it could still override the Governor’s veto and pass the legislation as originally written. Alternatively, the General Assembly could amend the legislation or introduce new legislation in line with the joint initiative. We will continue to monitor the status of the legislation and joint initiative and provide updates as they become available.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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