Florida has a law that provides up to three days’ leave to an employee who is experiencing domestic violence. But I rarely see it mentioned in employee handbooks, and most clients I’ve represented have never heard of it. In fact, I Googled the actual statute and it brought up just three references in all of 2015. I mention it now because I am about to file a lawsuit against an employer that fired a woman for missing a few days of work. She was seeking medical help for severe injuries to her eye sockets, neck and head, all caused by an abusive spouse.
I want to get the word out about the statute. Keep in mind that other forms of leave, like the FMLA, can usually be tacked on to provide a longer absence.
The domestic-violence leave law requires Florida employers with 50 or more employees to provide employees who have worked there for three months or longer up to three days of unpaid leave in any rolling 12-month period if the employee or a family or household member of an employee is the victim of domestic violence. It is in the employer’s discretion to provide paid leave.
It allows an employee to use domestic-violence leave from work to:
- Seek an injunction for protection against domestic violence or an injunction for protection in cases of repeat violence, dating violence, or sexual violence;
- Obtain medical care or mental health counseling, or both, for the employee or a family or household member to address physical or psychological injuries resulting from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence;
- Obtain services from a victim services organization, including, but not limited to, a domestic violence shelter or program or a rape crisis center as a result of the act of domestic violence or sexual violence;
- Make the employee’s home secure from the perpetrator of the domestic violence or sexual violence or to seek new housing to escape the perpetrator; or
- Seek legal assistance in addressing issues arising from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence or to attend and prepare for court-related proceedings arising from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence.
Where possible, the employee must provide notice in advance, although the law creates an exception to this in cases of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee, or to the health or safety of a family or household member. All information relating to the employee’s leave must be kept confidential. Employers who receive such requests are forbidden from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of any right under the law. Employers are also prohibited from taking action to discharge, demote, suspend, retaliate, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for exercising these rights. I’ve unfortunately encountered employers in the past who took the disgraceful attitude that they didn’t want anyone in their workplace who had these kinds of problems at home, and fired the victim for “bringing her problem to work.”
If you were punished by an employer because you needed time off relating to domestic violence, or know someone who was, urge them to speak to an employee-rights lawyer. This law entitles victims of domestic violence to recover damages against an employer who wrongfully took action following a request for leave. There are other laws as well that provide rights as well.