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People's Law Guide


Domestic Violence Leave Law: Rights For Victims



      Florida’s newest employment law provides persons living in households impacted by domestic violence be given up to three days off from work, while mandating their jobs be held open to return to. Persons working for an employer at least three months time must be granted up to three days of absences when medical, protective or legal needs arising out of domestic violence incidents are needed by themselves or to assist members of their households.

      Written  with  non-specific language, this new law may provide workers with more rights than employers believe they are required to grant.  Though applying only to employers with 50 or more workers, the law does not clarify if all of the workers must be based within Florida. Also, the law doesn’t specify if the three month duration needs to occur consecutively or if recently re-employed workers may combine seniority gained during interrupted work stints with the same employer.  

      Florida’s Domestic Violence law requires up to three working days of leave during any 12-month period be made available when any of the following results from domestic violence: 

1. When seeking an injunction for protection; or,
2. To obtain medical or mental health care. Services may be from a hospital, physician, certain other medical providers, a domestic violence shelter, a rape crises center; or,
3. To increase household security or to seek new accommodations; or,
4. To seek legal assistance or to either prepare for or to attend to court-related proceedings.

      Violations expose employers to liability for worker’s attorneys fees and their economic damages, including the value of lost wages and benefits.  When a new job has lower compensation than a job fired from, an employer can be held liable for future economic damages, too. Also, it is illegal to demote, suspend or retaliate against an employee for taking the leave. 

      Workers must provide “appropriate advance notice” to obtain leave, except when the health or safety of an employee or a family or household member is in “imminent danger.” Family or household members are spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons presently residing together (even if no formal family relationships exist) or have resided together previously as if they were a family, and  parents of a child in common  regardless of whether they have been married. Except for parents who have a child in common, all other family or household members must now or have previously resided in the same residence.

      Assaults, threats, sexual offenses, stalking and arson are among the offenses which can constitute domestic violence. According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

*  One in 320 households are affected by domestic violence.
* Violence by the same “intimate partner” tends to reoccur, with female victims averaging 6.9 attacks and male victims averaging 4.4 attacks. 
* 50% of the women experiencing intimate partner violence are physically injured, with 37% requiring medical care.
*  Women 24 years of age and under comprise the “profile” most prone to domestic violence. 
      Though most types of domestic violence has steadily declined, the number of offenses committed against parents continues unabated, according to Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement. This is likely due to higher numbers of households where aging parents reside with their adult children and minor grandchildren. Employers need to be mindful that those requiring leave may not be limited to those victimized by domestic violence, but are females and males in any age groups seeking leave to assist other persons who were threatened or harmed by domestic violence who are either family members residing elsewhere or persons who live in the employee’s home.

      Employees may be required to exhaust vacation and sick leave before being granted domestic violence leave rights, for which wages are not required to be paid. Also, those workers with at least one year of seniority employed by all governmental entities and those private sector employers having 50 or more employers within a 75 mile radius of their job site are entitled to as long as an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family & Medical Lave Act, a federal law, when they or immediate family members suffer from serious health concerns.  

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