Tragically, domestic violence is far-reaching and affects so many that it is unlikely any of us could say we have not been touched by it – either directly or someone we know. In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) reintroduced the Domestic Violence Leave Act (H.R. 3151), which would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include victims of domestic violence.
According to the Safe@Work Coalition:
- 96% of domestic violence victims who are employed have experienced problems at work resulting from the abuse or the abuser directly.
- Among women, 50-85% of those abused have missed work because of it; more than 60% reported being late to work.
Individuals who are attempting to recover from the effects of abuse could require medical attention, legal consultation, counseling, or other related activities that occur during their work hours. Currently, FMLA allows employees to take unpaid leave for their own (or a family member’s) medical condition, but does not provide for the expanded needs of domestic violence victims and their families. Several states currently have provisions that include domestic violence as part of their FMLA coverage.
Under the proposed bill, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking – or the employee’s family member (including domestic partner, same-sex spouse, or adult children) – may use leave in a variety of ways. Some examples include: medical attention for injuries; legal assistance; participating in support groups; and any other activity necessitated by the abuse.
Employers must keep all evidence of the abuse in strict confidence, except when necessary to protect the victim or family or assist with documentation of the abuse. In the absence of third party documentation, a worker can meet FMLA’s certification requirements by providing a written statement.
“Our primary goal must be to stamp out domestic violence altogether. But until then, we need to help those who need time off to deal with its effects,” said Rep. Woolsey, a former human resources executive. “By providing this kind of workplace flexibility, we can create a healthy, supportive workplace environment that fosters a productive and successful business.”