Domestic Violence and Your Florida Job: When You Need Time Off Work for Domestic Violence Issues
It is no understatement: Domestic violence takes an enormous toll on its victims. In addition to the physical and mental trauma, many victims are worried about their financial security. For instance, what if you need to take a day off from work to speak with a lawyer or meet with a prosecutor about your domestic violence case? Can your employer punish you for missing work?
The Employee’s Rights
Fortunately, Florida is one of a handful of states where employees enjoy certain rights to domestic violence leave. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist approved a law in 2007 that currently requires employers to grant leave requests under the following conditions:
- the employee is a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
- the employer has at least 50 employees;
- the employee requesting leave has worked for the employer for at least 3 months; and
- the employee needs up to 3 working days of leave to deal with a domestic violence situation.
The specific purposes for which a qualified employee may take domestic violence leave under the law include:
- seeking medical care and/or mental health counseling;
- seeking assistance from a victim services organization, such as a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter;
- securing or seeking housing to protect the employee from additional acts of domestic or sexual violence;
- meeting with an attorney or preparing for a court appearance; and
- seeking a court order to protect the employee against future acts of domestic or sexual violence.
The Employer’s Rights
The domestic violence leave law also protects employers in several important ways. First, the employer has the right to require “appropriate advance notice” of an employee’s intentions to take leave. This requirement may be ignored if there is an “imminent danger to the health and safety of the employee” or a member of their family or household.
Second, the employer has the right to request “sufficient documentation of the act of domestic violence or sexual violence” justifying leave. Third, the employer may require an employee to use up any accrued vacation time or other forms of leave first. Finally, the employer is not required to pay employees for any domestic violence leave time, although it is of course free to do so at its discretion.
Employers must be careful, however, to ensure they do not discriminate or retaliate against any employee who requests domestic violence leave. In other words, an employer should not threaten or discourage an employee from requesting leave, nor can it take any disciplinary action, such as demoting the employee or re-assigning them to less desirable work.
If an employer does violate any provision of the domestic violence law, the aggrieved employee does have the right to file a civil lawsuit and seek damages, which may include any lost wages or benefits. If you have additional questions about how the law may apply to you as either an employer or employee, you should seek advice from a qualified Florida employment law attorney right away.