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We’d like to help an employee who may be a domestic violence victim

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Q. We suspect that one of our employees is a victim of domestic violence. What are the leave requirements for domestic violence under California law?

California Labor Code section 230.1 provides protected leave for victims of domestic violence. It applies to employers with 25 or more employees.

Eligible employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are entitled to take time off to:

  • Seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence
  • Obtain services from a domestic-violence shelter, program or rape-crisis center
  • Obtain psychological counseling
  • Participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, including temporary or permanent relocation

Under the statute, employees may use vacation, personal leave or compensatory time off to protect themselves or others from domestic violence. Moreover, employers that discriminate, retaliate against or terminate an employee for taking such time off will be required to reinstate the employee and pay lost wages and benefits.

Before taking such leave, an employee must provide the employer with reasonable advance notice of the intention to take time off, unless advance notice is not feasible. When an unscheduled absence occurs, the employer may not take any action against the employee if the employee, within a reasonable time after the absence, provides a certification to the employer.

Employees who desire to take domestic-violence leave to seek medical attention for themselves or their minor children should provide medical certification verifying the need for such leave and the estimated length of such leave. The employer may require medical certification upon the employee’s return to work from his or her physician attesting to the employee’s condition and releasing the employee to return to work.

If the leave is for nonmedical reasons (for example, to relocate or take part in legal action), written certification verifying the need for the leave is required. Valid documentation may include a police or court record related to the domestic/
sexual violence or certification from a victim-services organization, attorney or medical or other professional from whom assistance was sought.

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