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Senator Spilka Supports Employment Rights Bill for Victims of Domestic Violence

January 13, 2012

BOSTON – The Senate on Thursday passed legislation establishing new employment rights for victims of domestic violence that will help victims keep their jobs and increase long-term economic productivity, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced today. The vote was 34-0. The bill has wide support from advocacy organizations and the business community.

“This important legislation is a step forward so we may better serve and protect victims across the Commonwealth whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence,” said Spilka. “We must continue to do all we can to assist the victims of domestic violence, men and women who often don’t know where to turn, feel they have no voice, or are fearful for their lives.”

“Too many jobs are lost and too many lives are being destroyed because victims don’t have the opportunity to get the help they need and improve their situations without fear of being fired and putting themselves in a more vulnerable position,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “This bill requires reasonable employer considerations to help victims recover and continue to make a living. It will help alleviate the human costs, and the costs to businesses, that are associated with domestic violence.”

The bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow up to 15 days of leave, with or without pay, to any employee who is a victim of domestic violence or lives with a family member who is a victim of domestic violence.

Employees can use the leave to obtain medical attention, counseling, housing, protection orders and other legal assistance.

Employers can require employees to provide restraining orders, police reports, medical notes or other official documentation, such as a conviction record or victim advocate statement, to certify that the employee or employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence.

The bill requires the employer to keep all information about the employee’s leave confidential. Employees must exhaust all available leave, such as vacation and sick time, before seeking leave established under this bill; however an employer may waive this requirement.

Similar legislation was passed by the Senate in the previous legislative session on May 13, 2010 but did not make it through the entire legislative process. It has the support of Jane Doe Inc., the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Retailers’ Association of Massachusetts.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

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