Legislature Provides Greater Protection For Victims of Domestic Violation

Recognizing that domestic violence has a devastating effect on families, communities, and the workplace, and acknowledging that domestic violence impacts productivity, effectiveness, absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover in the workplace, the California Legislature created the Victims of Domestic Violence Leave Act by amending section 230 of the Labor Code and by adding section 230.1 of the Labor Code.

Pursuant to existing provisions of section 230 of the Labor Code, victims of domestic violence are already entitled to take time off from work when they must be involved in judicial action related to domestic violence. Under existing law, if an employee provides advance notice to his or her employer before taking the time, the employer may not retaliate or discriminate against the employee. The employee may use vacation, personal leave, and compensatory time off to obtain relief.

Amendments to section 230 and the addition of section 230.1 provide further protection to victims of domestic abuse. If an employee must take unscheduled or emergency time off to obtain judicial relief, the employer may not retaliate or discriminate against the employee if the employee provides certification of the need for time off to the employer within a reasonable time after the absence. Certification may take the form of a police report, a court order, or documentation that the employee was undergoing treatment for physical or mental injuries or abuse. The amendments to section 230 also require an employer to maintain the confidentiality of employees who take leave for domestic violence.

The biggest change regarding leave as it relates to domestic violence affects employers who have 25 or more employees. In addition to prohibiting discrimination or retaliation against employees who take leave to participate in judicial action, the new section 230.1 prohibits employers of more than 25 employees from discriminating or retaliating against employees who take time off (1) to seek medical attention or psychological counseling for injuries caused by domestic violence, (2) to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter or program or from a rape crisis center, or (3) to participate in safety planning, including permanent relocation. Again, the Act requires the employee to give reasonable notice of time off or certification after unscheduled or emergency time off. In addition, the Act again requires the employer to maintain the confidentiality of the employee. Finally, section 230.1 recognizes that an employee is not entitled to take unpaid leave that exceeds the unpaid leave time allowed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

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