News

New Massachusetts law provides leave for domestic violence victims

by Susan Fentin

Employers in Massachusetts with at least 50 employees are now required to allow employees who are victims of domestic violence to take up to 15 days of unpaid leave within a 12-month period to deal with the violence.

The law, which went into effect August 8, also allows leave for covered family members of domestic violence victims. Covered family members include husbands; wives; those in a “substantive” dating or engagement relationship and who live together; persons having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together; a parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild; and guardians.

The law applies to all employees regardless of how many hours they work in a week, and there is no waiting period for eligibility.

Leave may be taken for any of the following reasons:

  • To seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services, or legal assistance;
  • To secure housing;
  • To obtain a protective order from a court;
  • To appear in court or before a grand jury;
  • To meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official;
  • To attend child custody proceedings; and
  • To address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or his or her family member.

Employees taking the leave must exhaust personal, sick, annual, and vacation leave before taking any unpaid leave unless company policy provides otherwise.

Employers are entitled to advance notice unless there is a threat of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or a covered family member. Employees not giving advance notice must notify the employer within three workdays that the leave was taken under the law’s provisions. Employees needing to take an unscheduled absence have 30 days to provide proof of their need for leave.

Covered employers are required to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law, so employers must develop and circulate leave policies that include provisions of the new law.

More details on the new domestic violence leave law will be covered in the October issue of Massachusetts Employment Law Letter.

Susan Fentin is a partner with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., and an editor of Massachusetts Employment Law Letter. You can contact her at sfentin@skoler-abbott.com.