SPRINGFIELD – When Laura Kane lost her son, Zachary, to suicide, she was still expected to return to work merely three days later. Today, she stood with lawmakers to support other grieving families and ensure that no one else is put in the same situation.
“I am grateful for the support and efforts of State Representative Maurice West and Senator Villa on getting this legislation passed. This is very bittersweet, as I am the mother who lost her 14-year-old son to suicide,” said Kane. “I was let go from my employment due to being unable to perform my duties to my employers expectation as a result the trauma and grief I was suffering following the sudden loss of my son. This bill will give families the job protection they deserve during this type of crisis. I truly hope no one has to use this, but in the event they find themselves in these circumstances, the bill will provide protection in what may be their darkest hours.”
Kane was let go from her job due to not being able to perform her job while grieving the loss of her child. She started a nonprofit, Marshmallow’s Hope, in honor of her son and to help children struggling with depression and families coping with the loss of a child due to suicide.
“Zachary’s story is tragic, and so is his mother’s,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford). “What Laura endured at her job was preventable and shouldn’t happen in this state ever again.”
Zachary’s Parent Protect Act – or Senate Bill 2034 – would provide extended bereavement leave to employees who have lost a child to suicide or homicide: up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for larger businesses with at least 250 workers and six weeks unpaid leave for smaller businesses with fewer than 250.
“My deepest sympathies to all who have ever suffered the loss of a child,” said State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). “Grief is different for everyone, and has no right answer or solution. With this bill, we hope to provide parents and families the support and time they deserve after a loss.”
It also would provide penalties against employers who violate the act and provides that employees who take leave will not be entitled to any more benefits than they would have had they not taken such leave.
“This is a measure rooted in compassion,” said State Representative Maurice West (D-Rockford). “Nothing can adequately define the loss that a parent goes through with the loss of a child. Providing appropriate time off is the least we can do to support those in their most difficult hour.”
Senate Bill 2034 passed the Senate and is expected to be heard in the House in the coming weeks.