By Sara Goldsmith Schwartz
As of August 8, 2014, Massachusetts employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 15 days of unpaid leave in any 12-month period for employees’ activities related to being a victim of domestic violence, including seeking medical attention or legal services, securing housing, or attending court proceedings. Massachusetts thus joins more than 20 other states and municipalities requiring such leave. Employees of covered Massachusetts employers may take leave related to their own abuse or the abuse of a covered family member, including a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.
Employees must give advance notice of their need to use the leave, unless there is a threat of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or a member of the employee’s family. Employees must also first exhaust all personal, sick, annual, and vacation leave before receiving unpaid leave, unless the employer’s policy provides otherwise.
The law requires confidentiality for leave-related information. Employers must keep such information confidential and not disclose such information unless disclosure is requested in writing by the employee, ordered by a court, otherwise required by law or in the course of a law enforcement investigation, or necessary to protect the safety of the employee or others employed at the workplace.
Covered employers must notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law, including those related to notification requirements and confidentiality.
Similar to other types of job-protected leave, employees who take domestic violence leave are entitled to restoration to their original jobs, or equivalent positions, and are protected from retaliation after taking leave.
We recommend that employers familiarize themselves with the requirements of the law, including its confidentiality provisions, and consult with counsel to prepare a domestic violence leave policy and update their handbooks accordingly.