Friday, July 06, 2007

Florida Enacts Domestic Violence Leave Act

A domestic violence leave act that went into effect in Florida on July 1, 2007 requires employers with fifty (50) or more employees to provide up to three days' leave for a variety of activities connected with domestic violence issues. Employees who have worked for employers for three (3) months or longer are eligible. Whether leave is paid or unpaid has been left to the discretion of the employer.

The law covers leave for specific activities such as:
  • Seeking an injunction for protection against domestic violence or repeat violence, or sexual violence
  • Obtaining medical care or mental health counseling or both for the employee or a family or household member to address injuries resulting from domestic violence
  • Obtaining services from victims services organizations such as a domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center
  • Making the employee's home secure from the perpetrator of domestic violence or finding a new home to escape the perpetrator
  • Seeking legal assistance to address issues arising from domestic violence or attending or preparing for court related proceedings arising from the act of domestic violence.

Under the law, employees are required to provide "appropriate advance notice" of the need for leave, unless prevented from doing so because of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or a family member. The amount of notice required is determined by company policy.

Employees must exhaust any available annual vacation or personal leave and sick leave, if applicable, unless the employer waives this requirement. Employers must keep confidential all information relating to leave for domestic violence.

Employers are prohibited from interfering with, restraining, and denying the exercise or attempt to exercise the rights provided by this law. Additionally, employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her rights. A person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of the law may file a lawsuit in state circuit court seeking damages (monetary relief such as loss wages and benefits) or equitable relief (such as reinstatement) or both. To read the legislation, visit

As I indicated in my last post, more and more states are passing such legislation, and so far, most employers have not indicated that allowing such leave is burdensome. The leave varies greatly from state to state, so an employee should not make an assumption that just because a law was passed in Florida under certain parameters or recently in Oregon under others that the law would be similar in his or her state, or that his or her state would have such a law at all.

As for employers, it is a very good idea to check and see if any such laws have been passed in your state - you may be surprised. If not, you may want to consider providing flexible leave policies anyway if you do not already do so. What do I mean by this? I mean allowing employees to take PTO (paid time off) for whatever reason is needed without having to designate the time as vacation or sick leave. This allows flexibility for all employees -- not just victims of domestic violence -- in how they use their leave benefits. It also allows you to be "ahead of the curve" should your state pass legislation allowing such leave.

Above all, by providing flexible leave, you have provided not only for the safety of that particular employee, but potentially your entire workforce. It is something to consider.

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