On August 8, 2014, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law that offers leave from work to domestic violence victims and their family members; so that they can take necessary steps such as getting medical attention; seeking victim services; submitting police reports; talking to attorneys, police or courts; making arrangements for child custody; etc. The Family and Medical Leave Act offers only limited leave for the specifically medical needs of the victim, but the new law recognizes many other ways in which domestic violence can disrupt the victim’s working life.
About a dozen other states have enacted similar laws. The provisions of those laws vary widely. Washington D.C.’s law is the only one that mandates paid leave. The laws vary in the activities for which leave is allowed. They also vary in the amount of time granted: some offer a set number of days, others require only a “reasonable” amount of leave, while others are silent about the length of time and only prohibit disciplining or firing employees who take time off for reasons relating to domestic violence. The Massachusetts law mandates “up to 15 days of leave from work in any 12 month period.”
The new law also specifies that, while employees can be required to provide “appropriate advance notice of the leave to the employer…if there is a threat of imminent danger…the employee shall not be required to provide advanced notice of leave; provided, however, that the employee shall notify the employer within 3 workdays that the leave was taken or is being taken under this section.” An obvious problem for domestic violence victims is that they can suddenly miss work, violate their employer’s policy regarding notice for absences, and lose their jobs. The employee will now be guaranteed 30 days to provide any required documentation to the employer regarding the reason for their absence from work.