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If an Employee Is a Victim of Domestic Abuse Do They Qualify for Time Off Work?

August 1, 2022 | Employment Law

According to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, you have the right to take time off from work to obtain relief from court, including obtaining a restraining order, to protect you and your children’s health, safety or welfare.


The FMLA is a federal law that allows certain employees to take up to 12 weeks off every 12 months for their own serious health conditions, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a new child (among other things). An employee who is physically injured or develops psychological trauma as a result of domestic violence might be entitled to FMLA leave. An employee might also be able to take time off to care for a parent or child who has been a victim of domestic violence.


If your company has 25 or more workers, you can take time off from work to get medical attention for injuries caused by crime or abuse, receive services from a domestic violence shelter, program, rape crisis center, or victim services organization or agency as a result of the crime or abuse, receive psychological counseling or mental health services related to an experience of crime or abuse, or participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future crime or abuse.


You may use accrued paid sick leave or vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available for your leave unless you are covered by a union agreement that says something different. Even if you don’t have paid leave, you still have the right to time off.


In general, you don’t have to give your employer proof to use leave for these reasons. If you can, you should tell your employer before you take time off. Even if you cannot tell your employer beforehand, your employer cannot discipline you if you give proof explaining the reason for your absence within a reasonable time. Proof can be a police report, a court order, a document from a licensed medical professional, a victim advocate, a licensed health care provider, or counselor showing that you were undergoing treatment for domestic violence related trauma, or a written statement signed by you, or an individual acting on your behalf, certifying that the absence is for an authorized purpose.


You also have the right to ask your employer for help or changes in your workplace to make sure you are safe at work. Your employer must work with you to see what changes can be made. Changes in the workplace may include putting in locks, changing your shift or phone number, transferring or reassigning you, or help with keeping a record of what happened to you. Your employer can ask you for a signed statement certifying that your request is for a proper purpose, and may also request proof showing your need for an accommodation. Your employer cannot tell your coworkers or anyone else about your request.


Your employer cannot treat you differently or fire you because you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, a crime involving physical or mental injury, or the threat of physical or mental injury. You cannot be treated differently if you asked for time off to get help, or if you asked your employer for reasonable accommodations to insure your safety at work.


If you believe you have been fired for requesting time off or for requesting accommodations to protect yourself from domestic violence or if your employer has changed your schedule, wages or responsibilities, contact our experienced attorneys to repair your schedule and responsibilities or to collect the back pay and damages you deserve.