On August 8, 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a Domestic Violence Leave Act (M.G.L. c. 260) which is effective immediately. The specifics of this law for employers include:
- * Employers with 50 or more employees must provide employees up to 15 days of unpaid leave in any 12-month period if the employee or a covered family member of the employee (e.g., employee's spouse, parent, step-parent, child, step-child, sibling, grandparent, and grandchild) is a victim of abusive behavior.
- * Covered employers must notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law.
- * An employee's leave:
- - Must be directly related to the abusive behavior, such as seeking or obtaining medical attention, counselling, victim services, or legal assistance; obtaining a protective order from a court; meeting with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; or attending a child custody proceeding.
- - May be required to use all available personal, sick, annual, and vacation leave before receiving unpaid leave, if the employer wants to require this.
- - Must provide advance notice to the employer, unless there is a threat of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or a member of the employee's family. An employee who does not give notice must notify the employer within three workdays that the leave was being taken under the Act's leave provisions. The notice may be provided by certain specified individuals other than the employee.
- - Are entitled to restoration of their original job or an equivalent position.
Employers' responsibilities include:
- - Continuing an employee's benefits accrued prior to the date on which the leave begins.
- - Not taking any negative actions against employees for unauthorized absences providing the employee submits documentation (e.g., police report of the abusive behavior) that the absence was due to domestic violence within 30 days of the last day of absence.
- - May require an employee to provide documentation that the employee, or the employee's family member, has been a victim of abusive behavior (even if the employee provides advance notice of the leave).
- - Information related to the employee's leave must be kept confidential by the employer (with a few exceptions).
- - No retaliation against or discriminating against in any manner an employee who exercises his or her rights under the new law.
This law will be enforced by the Attorney General and can designate injunctive and equitable relief against employers that violate the law. Employees may also bring actions against employers found to have violated the new domestic violence leave law. Employers will be subject to mandatory triple damages and reasonable attorneys' fees similar to Wage & Hour penalties.
While the law has defined several areas, there are still questions to be defined including whether intermittent leave is required and what activities would qualify for this type of leave.
What To Do Now:
Notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law including updating your leave policies to include this law.
If you have any questions, please contact Lauren Brenner at Lbrenner@telamonins.com.