The Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples recently launched a new website intended to assist victims of domestic violence, a recent Southwest Florida News-Press article reports. The website includes a variety of information, including tips on how victims can stay safe at work. Tips suggest, among other things, that victims show a picture of the abuser to supervisors/security guards, have telephone calls screened, and ask security or a coworker to escort the victim to his or her car.
These are good tips employers can use to help employees who may fall victim to domestic violence. It also provides us an opportunity to remind larger employers of an additional requirement: if an employer has 50 or more employees it is obligated to do more than simply assist its employee-victim.
Florida Statute 741.313 requires an employer who employs 50+ employees to permit an employee to take up to three working days of leave in any 12-month period to deal with domestic violence-related issues. This applies not only in situations where the employee is the victim of domestic violence, but also when a member of the employee’s family or household is the victim of domestic violence.
The law only covers employees who have worked for the employer for at least three months. The employee can use the leave to handle various legal and/or medical issues, including seeking a protective injunction against the abuser; obtaining medical care, mental health counseling, or services from a victim services organization; and securing the employee’s home or seeking new housing to escape the abuse. An employer is prohibited from discharging, demoting, suspending, or discriminating against an employee in any way for his or her exercise of rights under the statute.
Domestic violence leave may be with or without pay, at the employer’s discretion. Before receiving leave under the statute, the employee must exhaust all of his or her annual or vacation leave, personal leave, and/or sick leave if available, unless the employer waives this requirement.
Employers with 50 or more employees should include a domestic violence related leave policy in their employee handbook. This policy should address, among other things, whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and whether an employee must exhaust other types of leave before using domestic violence related leave. Employers should also take steps to ensure that any information regarding the request for domestic violence leave is kept confidential. Finally, all employers should take care to comply with any local codes or ordinances that may apply.