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City of Highland wants exemption from Illinois Paid Leave Act

 The fountain in Highland's City Square is pictured here at full force on a warm day.
Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
Highland wants exempt from the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act, in part, because some city employees are part-time seasonal workers, such as those in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Highland News Leader.

Highland has joined several other Illinois municipalities in attempting to exempt itself from a new law requiring five vacation days per year for all employees.

The Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act requires employers to provide five paid days off per year that can be used for any reason, such as sick children or car breakdowns or other needs. Employers may require notice, but cannot deny the leave.

Union leaders cheered the law, along with business interests such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

However, the Illinois Municipal League wrote a sample ordinance for municipalities such as cities and villages to exempt themselves. It states that providing five days of leave will “negatively impact” local governments, as it also includes part-time workers.

The city council voted unanimously Monday to define its leave policies with the current leave offered to full-time and part-time employees who are not represented by a union. City Manager Chris Conrad said that everyone was earning at least a week of vacation time a year, as well as 104 hours of sick time a year.

“So we were pretty much doing more than what the law required before,” he said. “(It’s) not a major change for us.”

So why try to exempt the city from the law if it was already in compliance? Conrad said Highland has a volunteer fire department and a number of seasonal workers. The paid leave law exempts fire protection districts, parks and some others as it pertains to seasonal workers and firefighters, he said, but did not exempt municipalities that have those same employees.

“Highland is a bit of an anomaly in that we have all these services under the city umbrella rather than through a park district or a fire protection district,” Conrad said. “This is just one of those quirks when you try to write a one-size-fits-all law. I would venture a guess that most state legislators are probably not familiar with or have seen a lot of communities organized like we are, which is why they took into consideration the park districts, (fire protection districts), etc. but forgot about the municipalities.”

Conrad said the guidance from the Illinois Municipal League was that municipalities should take “some affirmative action” to exempt themselves, and created the sample ordinance under consideration by several metro-east communities. Godfrey and Glen Carbon, among others, are voting or have voted on a similar ordinance in the past few weeks.

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Elizabeth Donald reports for the Highland News Leader, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Elizabeth Donald is a freelance journalist based in the Metro East.