Massachusetts’ has enacted a new Domestic Violence Leave Law requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to fifteen (15) days of unpaid leave to domestic violence victims.
The law mandates leaves of up to fifteen days in a 12-month period for employees, if the employee or a family member of the employee is a victim of domestic violence and needs time off to address issues directly related to the domestic violence.
There is no requisite number of hours an individual must work each week or each year to be eligible, nor is there a requirement that an employee work a certain number of months before becoming eligible to take leave.
Employers may require an employee seeking leave to exhaust all annual vacation, personal and sick leave available to the employee prior to requesting or taking leave.
An employee is entitled when:
- the employee, or a family member of the employee, is a victim of domestic violence;
- employee is using the leave from work to address issues directly related to the domestic violence against the employee or family member of the employee; and
- the employee is not the perpetrator of the domestic violence against such employee’s family member.
Leave may be used for the following:
- to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance;
- secure housing;
- obtain a protective order from a court;
- appear in court or before a grand jury;
- meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; or
- attend child custody proceedings or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.
An employee’s family member includes a spouse, domestic partner, individuals having a child in common, parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild.
Similar to FMLA, employees must request the leave in advance (unless there is a threat of imminent danger). Employers may require an employee to provide documentation showing that the employee or the employee’s family member has been a victim of abusive behavior. In the case of a scheduled leave, the employee must provide the same amount of notice as is required by the company’s other leave policies.
In the case of unscheduled leave, an employee (or employee’s representative) must notify the employer within three (3) work days that the leave was taken or is being taken and an employer may not take negative action against the employee for an unscheduled absence if within thirty (30) days from the unauthorized absence, the employee provides sufficient documentation demonstrating the need for the leave.
Employers should immediately write and adopt a domestic violence leave policy, as the law requires employers to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law. Employers should also train their supervisors about the law and how to address requests for leave.