A new statute in Massachusetts outlines the rights and responsibilities given to a worker who is a victim or witness of domestic violence.
On Friday August 8, the Governor of Massachusetts signed over a law that would allow workers to take leave if involved in any sort of domestic abuse outside the workplace.
The statute’s provisions state that if the employee is a worker at an establishment that houses 50 or more workers, then he or she has the right to request a 15-day leave any time during a 12-month period.
In the case of requesting time off, the employee has to provide evidence that they will:
(a) Seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services, or legal assistance;
(b) Secure housing;
(c) Obtain a protective order from a court;
(d) Appear in court or before a grand jury;
(e) Meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official;
(f) Attend child custody proceedings; or
(g) Address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member.
The employer is asked to practice the new policy in accordance to what constitutes as domestic violence and abuse.
According to the law’s definition of abuse, it includes any physical harm, mental abuse, intimidating threats, sexual assaults, harassment, stalking, and deprivation of basic living necessities.
Domestic Violence usually involves:
(a) A current or former spouse of the employee or the employee’s family member;
(b) A person with whom the employee or the employee’s family member shares a child in common;
(c) A person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the employee or the employee’s family member;
(d) A person who is related by blood or marriage to the employee; or
(e) A person with whom the employee or employee’s family member has or had a dating or engagement relationship.
In addition to these delineations, there are some authoritative rights granted to the employer.
Paid or unpaid leave is the decision of the employer, depending upon the dynamics of the issue. The employer also has sole discretion to replace all personal and sick leave time with the domestic violence leave.
Employers can request an advance notice in accordance to the company’s policy, with the exception of a dangerous situation that calls for immediate leave. The employer, however, is forbidden to terminate or use negative action towards an employee who doesn’t show to work and fails to provide appropriate documentation. The worker should instantly provide proof of the situation at least 30 days following the unscheduled absence.
According to The Huffington Post, however, employers are typically granted the option of firing employees through the employment-at-will doctrine—which “allowed an employer to simply fire an individual who faced domestic violence that could spill into the workplace.” This doctrine is constantly being reconsidered by several state legislatures.
Ultimately, an employer’s job is not to convert his or her workplace in a way that would accommodate the worker’s safety—like increasing security—but to be empathetic of the situation at hand by breaching a few workplace expectations.
Like Massachusetts, domestic violence statutes exist in other jurisdictions but vary state to state.
In the emergency of a domestic violence situation, the person should always seek outside help from a local advocacy organization or protective institution.