Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Massachusetts Enacts Domestic Violence Leave for Employees

In the wake of the Ray and Janay Rice incident sweeping the news across the country, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has enacted emergency legislation entitled “An Act relative to domestic violence.”  The new law is effective immediately and mandates that all employers with 50 or more employees permit an employee to take up to 15 days of leave from work in any 12-month period if the employee, or a family member (defined below) of the employee, is a victim of abusive behavior and the employee is using the leave from work 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; attend child custody proceedings; or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee; and
  • The employee is not the perpetrator of the abusive behavior against such employee’s family member.
The new law has several important definitions:

"Family members" include:
  • Persons who are married to one another;
  • Persons in a substantive dating or engagement relationship and who reside together;
  • Persons having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or resided together
  • A parent, step-parent, child, step-child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild; or
  • Persons in a guardianship relationship.
The Act defines “abusive behavior” as:
  • Domestic violence, defined as abuse by a person with whom the individual is in a relationship
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
There are several other nuances of the law but because this does not help or affect Wisconsin, I will not delve into those here in this post.  For more information on the new law, click here.

There is currently no such law at the federal level, though Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has attempted several times over the years to get such legislation passed in Congress, which I have written about before here.

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