Vermont Enacts Employment Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence, Other Crimes

Vermont Enacts Employment Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence, Other Crimes

A new law enacted in Vermont late last month extends employment protections to victims of crime, specifically targeting victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The law, which goes into effect on July 1, makes employees who become victims of crimes a protected class and outlaws discrimination and retaliation against these employees, Jackson Lewis attorneys Martha Van Oot and Samuel V. Maxwell explain at Lexology:

In addition, the new law carves out circumstances upon which “crime victims” are allowed to take unpaid leave from employment. These circumstances … include allowing the employee to attend:

  • A deposition or other court proceeding relating to a criminal proceeding where the employee is a “victim” and the employee has a right or obligation to appear at the proceeding;
  • A relief from abuse hearing pursuant to 15 V.S.A. §1103 [a state domestic relations abuse prevention law] when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff;
  • A hearing concerning an order against stalking or sexual assault when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff; or
  • A hearing seeking relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff.

The statute allows the employee to use accrued sick, vacation, or any other accrued paid leave in lieu of taking unpaid leave.

In this regard, Vermont’s law is similar to laws recently passed in other states and jurisdictions giving employees a right to use their paid sick leave as “safe leave” for court dates, counseling, or other matters related to addressing or protecting themselves from domestic violence. New York City amended its paid sick leave mandate to that effect last year, while Maryland and New Jersey included safe leave provisions in their new sick leave laws. California, Washington, and Minnesota also give employees the right to use their paid sick leave for these purposes, as do the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. The only country that has a statutory safe leave entitlement at the national level is the Philippines, where it is spottily enforced, but Australian lawmakers are proposing to enact one as well.

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Australia Mulls Mandating Paid Safe Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence

Australia Mulls Mandating Paid Safe Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence

Since December, Australia’s opposition Labor party has been pushing legislation that would require employers in the country to provide ten days of paid leave for employees to address domestic violence when either they or an immediate family member are a victim of it. The proposed legislation, which originated with the Green party and the Australian Council for Trade Unions, would allow employees to take this time to obtain legal, medical, and counseling services, attend court appointments, or make arrangements to exit abusive relationships and living situations, the Guardian reported at the time:

Employer organisations opposed the new entitlement. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry claimed it could cost employers as much as $205m to create just one day of domestic violence leave per worker per year. Unions dispute the figure and suggest the cost would be closer to $11.8m, based on estimates that 2% of female workers and less than 1% of male workers take the leave each year when it is available to them. …

About 1.6m workers currently have access to paid family and domestic violence leave through enterprise bargaining or company policy. Labor acknowledged the many employers that already provide family violence leave, including Medicare, CUB, Telstra, NAB, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Qantas.

Paid domestic violence leave or “safe leave” is rarely mandated at the national level. The only country known to have such a policy is the Philippines, where it is neither well known nor well enforced, the Australian Industry Group noted in 2016, when the ACTU first issued its proposal. It has been gaining traction at the state and local level in the US, however, and at the provincial level in Canada. California, Washington, Minnesota, and most recently Maryland allow employees to use the accrued sick leave to which they are entitled to address issues of domestic violence, as do New York City and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.

Paid domestic violence leave has obvious financial benefits to victims and, advocates argue, less obvious benefits to their employers in terms of retention, productivity, and avoiding disruptions in the workplace. The moral argument for it is even more compelling, Lila MacLellan writes at Quartz:

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