Domestic Violence Leave Law Expands…

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A few more rules went into play this month for Washington State employers with regards to the already existing Domestic Violence Leave laws. There are many points to be aware of, old and new, but you can find the complete WAC details in Chapter 49.76 RCW. Below is a “brief” non-exhaustive list of items to be aware of when it comes to domestic violence leave and accommodations in Washington.

It’s important to note these rules apply to all Washington employers and cover not just employees, but also qualifying family members* of the employee who may be in need of assistance as a result of a domestic violence situation. The workplace protections and rights extend to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and to employees who have a covered family member who is such a victim. In short, these rights require employers to:

Provide reasonable safety accommodations to victims, or perceived victims, of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

  • Transfers or reassignment
  • Modified schedules
  • Changes to work telephone numbers or email addresses
  • Changed workstations
  • Installed locks
  • Implementing safety procedures
  • Any other adjustments to job structures, workplace facilities, or work requirements in response to the threat

Allow employees who are victims to take an unpaid leave of absence in order to:

  • Seek legal or law enforcement assistance
  • Seek treatment for physical or mental injuries
  • Obtain help, or assist a family member to receive help
  • Take measures or plan for safety, relocate, or provide safety from future victimization

Prohibit discrimination or retaliation against actual or perceived victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and to employees who have a covered family member who is such a victim. All of the following actions are prohibited if they are as a result of an employee exercising Domestic Violence Leave law rights, filing or communicating to the employer an intent to file a complaint, or participating or assisting in another employee’s attempted exercise such rights.

  • Discharging or threatening to discharge
  • Demoting or denying promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Retaliating against
  • Harassing
  • Suspending or in any manner discriminate or retaliate
  • Otherwise discriminating in any way against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment
  • Refusing to hire an otherwise qualified individual
  • Refusing to make a reasonable safety accommodation requested by a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, unless such an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. (HINT:  An “undue hardship” is a tough burden to prove).

Notice & Verification of Leave

If the leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide notice consistent with the employer’s normal notice policy. If advanced notice of leave is not provided, the employee may be required to provide notice to the employer no later than the end of the first day of the leave. Additionally, employers may require written verification, in a timely but reasonable manner, to support a request for leave or a reasonable safety accommodation by employee. Such verification can be in the form of one or more of the following:

  • Police report
  • Court order protecting or separating the employee or family member from the perpetrator
  • Other court documents
  • Documentation from an advocate, attorney, member of the clergy, or medical or other professional

*Qualifying family members include children, spouses, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, or any person with whom the employee has a dating relationship.

NOTE:  Some municipal sick leave laws, like in Seattle, Tacoma, and SeaTac, allow covered employees to take available paid sick-leave for domestic violence purposes.

Next Steps:  Employers should review and revise their existing leave policies and procedures to make sure domestic violence leave is addressed, including status as an actual or perceived victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers also should consider providing training to their supervisory employees to ensure compliance with domestic violence leave laws.

Got questions? Want more information? Give the Employee Benefits Advisors at EHL Insurance a call at (360) 779-4448.

I’m full of opinions but I never know which ones are good. And I’m not an employment attorney, so I had to include my disclaimer below:

DISCLAIMER: The comments and materials contained herein are intended to be for informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and is not intended to create or constitute a lawyer-client relationship. Before acting on the basis of any of this information or material, you are advised to consult your employment attorney for legal advice. Any views or opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company or agency. Neither Brown & Brown Insurance nor EHL Insurance accepts any liability for any damages or other liability arising out of this communication or the reliance upon any of the information provided within.

AUTHOR:  John Bower
Employee Benefits Advisor

(360) 779-4448 ext. 8177

John is an Employee Benefits Advisor, a seasoned Human Resources practitioner, and is curious about enough things to be a little bit dangerous! He’s full of opinions, which are a lot like odors, sometimes their good but other times they stink. John has two teenage boys and a sports fanatical family. GO HAWKS!

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