NY Mandates Leave for Domestic Violence Victims
Starting on Nov 18, 2019, NYS employers will be required to grant leave to employees whom they know to be victims of domestic violence.
While there are exceptions for employers who can show that the leave would place upon their business an undue hardship, employers are required to provide such employees with a “reasonable amount of time” to receive recovery care.
Recovery care could include counseling appointments, time for meeting with legal counsel, court appearances, or any actions required by the employee to protect themselves from future violence (relocation, temporary/permanent housing changes, etc.).
Employer Penalty for Non-Compliance
There is a penalty of up to $50,000 in civil fines, or $100,000 if an employer is shown to be willfully negligent or malicious in his or her failure to deliver this benefit. Maintaining compliance starts with awareness among staff and supervisors.
Furthermore, employers, as in any leave case, are advised to protect the victim’s privacy while administering the leave. That means notifying supervisors only that the employee is out on leave, when they can expect that person’s accommodation to expire, and that staff are not to interfere with the employee’s use of the benefit.
Can an Employer Substantiate a Leave Request?
With regards to substantiating the legitimacy of a domestic violence leave request, employees must give their employer a reasonable amount of time, when feasible, of the need for leave. The employer can request substantiation in the form of a police report, court order, or evidence from the court or prosecuting attorney that the employee appeared in court, or documentation from certain professionals that the employee and his or her child was receiving counseling or treatment.
The employer has the option to require use of paid leave before entering an unpaid status, depending on the employer’s existing leave policies or collective bargaining contracts. Employee health insurance must be continued during the leave period.
What Should Employers do Before November 18, 2019?
Take time to review current leave policies and ensure that the new accommodation language for domestic violence is included, and/or that there is no language or policy providing a barrier to any employee’s access to this new state-mandated benefit.