January 12, 2012
BOSTON – The Senate on Thursday passed legislation establishing new employment rights for victims of domestic violence that will help victims keep their jobs and increase long-term economic productivity, State Senator Jamie Eldridge announced today. The vote was 34-0. The bill has wide support from advocacy organizations and the business community.
“No one should have to fear losing their job because they are the victim of domestic violence and trying to get help,” said Eldridge. “I hope in passing this legislation we help create an atmosphere where victims of domestic violence are better able to access the help and support they need. I’m proud to support it and hope to see it passed by the House and signed into law by the Governor as soon as possible.”
“Too many jobs are lost and too many lives are being destroyed because victims don’t have the opportunity to get the help they need and improve their situations without fear of being fired and putting themselves in a more vulnerable position,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “This bill requires reasonable employer considerations to help victims recover and continue to make a living. It will help alleviate the human costs, and the costs to businesses, that are associated with domestic violence.”
The bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow up to 15 days of leave, with or without pay, to any employee who is a victim of domestic violence or lives with a family member who is a victim of domestic violence.
Employees can use the leave to obtain medical attention, counseling, housing, protection orders and other legal assistance.
Employers can require employees to provide restraining orders, police reports, medical notes or other official documentation, such as a conviction record or victim advocate statement, to certify that the employee or employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence.
The bill requires the employer to keep all information about the employee’s leave confidential. Employees must exhaust all available leave, such as vacation and sick time, before seeking leave established under this bill; however an employer may waive this requirement.
Similar legislation was passed by the Senate in the previous legislative session on May 13, 2010 but did not make it through the entire legislative process. It has the support of Jane Doe Inc., the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Retailers’ Association of Massachusetts.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.