A California law effective this year now stipulates that private employers must accommodate domestic violence victims for leave and additional benefits. This law is known as the Healthy Families Act, which is also being enacted in more than one dozen other states nationwide. A general similarity of this law across states is that job protective leave covers psychological therapy and time needed for medical attention. Also covered in such leave are legal proceedings, relocation and seeking of social services.
This law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on the fact that an employee is a victim of domestic violence, as well as a victim of stalking or sexual assault. Employees are also eligible for practical safety accommodations while at work, including moving the employee’s desk if necessary and receiving a new phone extension if needed.
Employee accommodations may also include a number of other forms of workplace assistance. These include willingness to help an employee to document such domestic abuse in workplace and implementing new safety measures as necessary. The employer may also help by referring the employee to a victim’s assistance program. However, different employers may interpret certain aspects of the law, such as what constitutes safety measures, with their own discretion.
Hourly employees will receive one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. However, the employers may limit the employee’s paid sick leave to three full working days per year. Unused days will be considered to roll over into the following year.
The law also goes on to clarify who qualifies as a domestic violence victim, such as those who experience such abuse at the hands of a spouse or previous spouse, including related cohabitants and those engaged or in other such relationships, including parents of children.
However, the employee experiencing such trauma should still be responsible in providing reasonable notice for taking time off whenever possible. The employee should substantiate the need by providing a police report detailing the domestic abuse. They may also provide a court order that is meant to keep the employee safe and distant from the offending party. Medical documentation is also recommended to account for the time needed for related treatment. The employer may request recertification related to the abuse every six months.
Of course, such documentation must be kept confidential between the employer and the employee. The only exceptions to this occur when the law otherwise dictates so or if it is deemed mandatory to keep the other employees of the organization safe. Regardless, the employee in question must first be notified before the employer makes such an announcement related to disclosure. In addition, the employer is not required to take an action that is legally defined as “undue hardship.” This essentially means that the action has the intention of benefiting all employees, while also ensuring safety.
If the domestic violence victims need a different accommodation based on a change of their life conditions, then the employer must repeat the process of meeting individually with the employee. He or she is also required to notify the employer when such an accommodation is no longer needed. The employer must also not retaliate against another such employee, whether a reasonable request was granted or not.
While domestic violence and related abuse often proves to be a traumatic and stressful experience, that doesn’t need to be compounded by further complications in a professional setting. This law aims to strive for better understanding between employers and employees of such sensitive matters, so that the employee may recover and be able to move forward. By allowing for such accommodations, the employer is able to expedite recovery for the employee. This is also in their best interest professionally in terms of ensuring that uncompromised productivity in the future will occur sooner rather than later.
Written by Ryan McMaster, Sovereign Health Group writer
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