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Sep 11, 2014

Thanks to Ray Rice and TMZ, domestic violence is front and center once again.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see footage of the video and someone giving their opinion on the events, and the aftermath. While it’s tough to watch and listen to, all of this coverage is certainly bringing more awareness to the struggle that domestic abuse victims face today.

So, when it comes to your business, what are you required to do in the event an employee becomes a victim themselves? It depends on the size of your company and what state(s) you have employees in.

More states have laws on domestic violence leave

A growing number of states are mandating domestic violence leave to protect employees who are victims, or are caring for a family member who is a victim of domestic violence.

In August, Massachusetts now has a law that requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer 15 days of leave to employees who are the victim of domestic violence, or who are caring for a family member affected by domestic violence. The state of Washington, however, has had a domestic leave policy in effect since 2008 that covers all employers, public and private, regardless of size.

While I would argue that all employers should offer time off for an employee dealing with a situation like this, it’s important for a business owner to know their requirements based on their state and employee size.

Questions you should be asking

Here are some important questions to ask yourself.

  • Based on the state(s) where I have employees, and my company size, am I required to offer domestic violence leave?
  • If so, how much time am I required to allow, and does my employee need to exhaust other time off (i.e. vacation time, sick time) before the leave kicks in?
  • Do I need to have documented proof of the domestic abuse, and if so, what qualifies as proof?
  • Who is considered “family” that an employee could be caring for?
  • Do I need to educate my employees on my domestic violence leave policy and include it in my employee handbook or display it on a poster?
  • Does my employee need to give me notice before taking domestic violence leave?

You must follow the rules consistently

The answers to these questions can vary quite a bit from state to state and the penalties can be steep if your business does not comply. It is critical that businesses know the rules that pertain to them and follow them consistently.

There are resources available online in each state to answer these questions, or you could reach out to a local human resource consultant or attorney.

This was originally published on the Genesis HR Solutions blog.

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