By: Janice E. Robbins | Partner
Act Relative to Domestic Violence
Chapter 260 of the Acts and Resolves of 2014, an Act Relative to Domestic Violence, was recently enacted in Massachusetts. Section 10 of this Act amends Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws and creates a new Section 52E. This section mandates that an employer allow its employees to take up to 15 days of leave from work annually under certain circumstances. Employers who have 50 or more employees are subject to this new section.
The following summarizes the conditions under which an employee is entitled to leave.
1. The employee is a victim or a family member of the employee is a victim of abusive behavior, which includes domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
• “Family Member” is defined to include spouses, persons who are in a dating or engagement relationship and who reside together, persons who have a child together whether or not married or residing together, a parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and guardians.
2. Leave from work is required by the employee in order to seek or obtain medical care, counseling, victim’s services or legal assistance, to secure housing, to obtain a protective or other court order, to appear in court or before a grand jury, to meet with any law enforcement official, including a district attorney, to attend a child custody proceeding, or to address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior.
1. An employee who is the perpetrator of the abusive behavior is not entitled to this leave.
2. The employer has the discretion to determine whether leave shall be paid or unpaid.
3. Unless the employer waives this requirement, the employee must exhaust all annual vacation, personal and sick leave then available prior to requesting additional leave.
1. Unless there is a case of imminent danger to the health or safety of an employee (or family member), an employee seeking leave under this law must provide appropriate advance notice of the leave to the employer as required by the employer’s leave policy.
2. In the event of a threat of imminent danger to the health or safety of an employee (or family member), advance notice shall not be required, but the employee must notify the employer within 3 work days that leave has been taken under this law. An employer may not take any adverse action against an employee if, within 30 days from the last day of absence from work without prior notice, the employee provides documentation evidencing the existence of abusive behavior against the employee (or family member). The new law provides a fairly extensive list of what documentation satisfies this requirement, including, but not limited to, a sworn statement by the employee attesting to the fact that the employee or the family member has been a victim of abusive behavior.
3. Any information provided to the employer must be kept confidential and may be kept in the employee’s employment records for only so long as is necessary to make a determination as to whether the employee is eligible for leave under this law.
4. Employers must provide employees with notification of the rights and responsibilities provided by this law, including those related to notice requirements and confidentiality.