The Domestic Violence Leave Law

The Domestic Violence Leave Law provides job-protected leave for victims of domestic violence.

This law went in to effect in 2014 and requires covered employers to provide up to 15 days of job-protected leave in a 12 month period to an employee who is a victim of “abusive behavior” or who has a family member who is a victim of abusive behavior. Abusive behavior is defined as “domestic violence, criminal stalking, or sexual assault.” The law applies to employers with 50 or more employees. There is no required minimum hours worked or length of employment prior to becoming eligible for this type of leave.

Using The Leave

The employee must use the leave to address issues relating to the abusive or domestic behavior, such as seeking medical treatment or counseling, obtaining victim services or legal assistance, securing housing, making a court appearance, obtaining a protective order, meeting with law enforcement officials, or attending child custody proceedings.

It is entirely up to the employer as whether the leave is paid or not. The law is clear, however, that unless an employer waives this requirement, an employee must use all his or her paid leave, such as vacation or sick time, before using this new type of leave.

The employee must provide the employer advanced notice of the need for leave, unless there is a threat of imminent danger. In that situation, the employee may take the leave, provided the employee of the employee’s representative (such as a family member or social worker) provides notice of the leave within three working days after the employee takes the leave. If this type of unexpected leave occurs, the new law prohibits employers from disciplining or terminating the employee if the employee provides supporting documentation within 30 days of the leave. Acceptable documentation to support an absence under the law includes a protective order from a court, a letter from a court or agency, a police report, medical records of treatment related to the abusive behavior, an affidavit from a counselor, social worker, health care provider or clergy, or legal advocate. An employee can also provide a sworn statement written under the pains and penalties of perjury attesting that the employee or a family member has been the victim of abusive behavior. Importantly, the law requires that the employer keep this information confidential.

You Have Rights

An employer has no choice but to provide the employee leave under this law and cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee for taking leave under this law. When the employee returns to work, he or she must be reinstated to his or her job or an equivalent job. The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General has the authority to enforce this law. In addition, an employee can file a civil law suit in court for injunctive relief, lost wages and benefits, treble damages, and attorneys’ fees.

If you have questions about the Domestic Violence Leave Law, please contact the Employment Law Department at Keches Law Group. Call our toll-free at 617-898-0808, or visit us online for a free consultation.