SPRINGFIELD – When Laura Kane lost her son, Zachary, to suicide, she was still expected to return to work merely three days later. To help support families grieving the loss of a child and ensure no one else is put in the same situation, State Senator Karina Villa championed a law that creates Zachary’s Parent Protection Act.
“The death of a child is an immeasurably tragic event, and my heart goes out to anyone who has had to experience such a loss,” said Villa (D-West Chicago). “This law acknowledges the severity of these situations and allows families the necessary time to grieve, seek support and begin their healing journey without the added burden of employment-related concerns.”
Kane was let go 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.
This new law provides 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. It also provides 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.
“Grief is a unique process, and my goal is that through this law, families will have access to the critical emotional space and time needed to cope with such a horrifying loss,” said Villa. “If you or someone you know might be suffering from suicidal thoughts, you can call the suicide and crisis lifeline by dialing 988.”
Senate Bill 2034 was signed on Friday, Aug. 4th and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.