CHICAGO – State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort) joined with several airline employees for a press conference Thursday to advocate for legislation that would give those employees the chance to use earned sick time to care for sick family members.

“Today marks the next step in our fight to make sure those hard-working folks who go above and beyond to make travel seamless are able to use their earned sick time to help loved ones in need,” Hastings said. “This is, quite simply, the right thing to do for working families in Illinois.”

Hastings was inspired to lead the measure by two residents of the district he represents, both of whom are flight attendants for Southwest Airlines. Corliss King’s husband was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in 2017 and was hospitalized several times, receiving various surgeries that left him in need of care at home. Corliss was able to use her own accrued sick time to help care for her husband and children until 2017 when a law was passed that removed coverage for airline employees.

“In the event of a personal family emergency, airline workers are currently forced to choose between caring for a sick family member and earning their paycheck. To me, there should not be professional consequences for having a family that needs us just because you chose the airline industry as a career. We aren't looking for special treatment, just equal treatment for all Illinois workers. It is the right thing to do."

Susan Lyons has a similar story. When her brother, a single father, suffered a heart attack, was pronounced dead, and revived but in a stable coma, Susan was forced to take unpaid Family Medical Leave Act leave, rather than use any of the 300+ sick hours she had accrued on the job. She lost over a month of income during the time she was caring for her brother and his child.

“Our loved ones deserve to know that we can be there for them in their time of need without risking our careers,” Lyons said. “We are not asking for much.”

Senate Bill 645 passed the Senate Labor Committee on March 18 and will be considered before the Senate in the coming weeks.