ViewPoint: Two Laws Dealing With Domestic Violence Leave Could Create Confusion
Amber Elias’ article “ViewPoint: Two Laws Dealing With Domestic Violence Leave Could Create Confusion” was featured in the Boston Business Journal on November 7, 2014.
A ballot question approved by voters this week allows employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year. For employers with 11 or more employees, this time off must be paid. In addition to caring for themselves and their families, employees can also use this time to "address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence." This adds to leave included in the Domestic Violence Act, passed last August, which gives employees up to 15 days off in any 12-month period. This leave can be paid or unpaid at the employer's discretion. The differences between these laws will create complications for employers — and their employees.
In the article, Amber discusses the inconsistencies between two domestic violence leave laws that create a confusing patchwork of entitlements and requirements that will burden both Massachusetts’ employers and their employees.
Take the case of an employee who asks for time off to care for a family member impacted by domestic violence. In order to figure out what kind of leave is available, the employer would have to quiz the employee about the identity of the victim. The reason is that the definition of "domestic violence" under the Domestic Violence Act includes abuse against "the employee or a family member," while earned sick time is only available under the new law if the victim is the employee or the employee's child.
Obviously, clarity is needed. The new Legislature should provide it by reconciling the two laws as a first order of business. At the very least, the new attorney general should publish compliance guidance for employers. Though well-intentioned, these two laws will only make it harder for victims to get the support they need and deserve.
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