Public scrutiny has recently focused on the NFL’s response to accusations against its players of domestic violence. Massachusetts is currently addressing another side of domestic violence— employers’ treatment of the victims of domestic violence. On August 8, 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law that requires employers with fifty or more employees to provide employees who are victims of domestic violence up to fifteen days of leave in any twelve-month period. See St. 2014, c. 260, § 13.
Domestic violence can cause a wide array of problems. Victims may require medical and legal assistance. They may need to go to counseling, custody hearings, or find new housing. Financial pressures become an additional problem when victims have to choose between keeping their job and getting the help they need.
The new law addresses these situations by allowing up to fifteen days of unpaid leave in any twelve-month period. The law applies to employees who are victims or family members of victims of domestic violence, so long as the employee is not the perpetrator of the abusive behavior. The law applies to all employees, regardless of how many hours they work or how long they have been employed. The new law specifies that leave is available for the following purposes:
- To seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services, or legal assistance
- To secure housing
- To seek a protective order from a court
- To make a court appearance
- To meet with law enforcement officials
- To attend child custody proceedings
- To address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee
The law allows employers to determine whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and requires employees to exhaust other vacation or leave time first. Employees are required to give advanced notice, where possible, and employers can require documentation showing that the employee or employee’s family member has been a victim of domestic violence.
Employers are required to keep information about the employee’s leave under this section confidential, with some itemized exceptions. Employers must not discharge, penalize, or discriminate against an employee for exercising the employee’s rights under this new law. Employers are also required to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under this section. (This law is similar to G. L. c. 258B § 3(l), which allows leave for employees who have been a victim of a crime or have been subpoenaed as a witness.)
The new law was effective immediately. Employers with fifty or more employees should review and update their processes and policies for dealing with domestic violence. If you have questions about how this new law might apply to your family or business, call the attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. today.