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Massachusetts Solidifies Employment Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence

Blog, Corporate Lawyers

Posted in on April 9, 2015

On August 8, 2014, the Massachusetts Governor Patrick signed into law “An Act Relative to Domestic Violence” creating leave of up to 15 days per 12 month period for employees suffering from domestic violence. The law only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. This leave can be paid or unpaid at the discretion of the employer. Employees can be requested to use all other vacation, personal, and sick leave before utilizing these new benefits. The law does not apply to perpetrators of domestic violence.

Employees can seek leave for a variety of reasons relating to domestic violence, including seeking medical attention, counseling, protective orders in court, testifying or appearing in court, and meeting with the police, district attorney, or other law enforcement officer regarding the abuse. The leave also applies to employees whose immediate family members are the victim of domestic violence and wish to accompany them to a protected activity.

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Employees should give as much notice to employers as they can when they seek to utilize domestic violence leave. Employees, at the discretion of their employer, may be required to produce documentation to support their need for leave. The law does take into account that notice may not be available in emergency situations where the employee or their family member is threatened with imminent danger. In an emergency situation, employees will have up to 30 days to produce supporting documentation to their employer. Any information regarding an employee’s request, use, and documentation of domestic violence leave must be kept confidential.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is tasked with the enforcement of this law. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees seeking to utilize domestic violence leave. An employee’s job, or the equivalent, must be available to the employee upon return from the leave. Employers in violation of this law will be subject to civil enforcement by the Attorney General’s Office or a private suit by an employee, with damages including but not limited to lost wages and benefits. An employee who prevails can collect treble damages and attorney’s fees.

If you are a business owner who wants to know how this new domestic violence leave law will affect your business, including the implementation of the law, contact Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro. Our experienced employment and business attorneys can counsel you in implementing the correct strategy to meet your business needs while still complying with the law.