Client Compass, Divorce Law Monitor

Job Protection When Taking Time Off Due to Domestic Violence

August 9, 2023


If you need to take time out of work to seek medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance; secure housing; obtain an abuse prevention order from a court; appear in court; meet with law enforcement; or attend child custody proceedings or address other issues directly related to the abuse inflicted on you or a member of your family, Massachusetts law protects your job.

General Law Chapter 149, section 52E requires employers with 50 or more employees to permit an employee to take up to 15 days of leave from work in any 12-month period because of abuse. While the employee is required first to use accrued sick and personal days (unless the employer waives that requirement), the law prohibits the employer from discharging or discriminating against an employee for exercising the employee’s rights under the law. Taking leave of up to 15 days per year under this law cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit accrued prior to the date the leave is taken. Further, upon the employee’s return from such leave, the employee is entitled to restoration to the original job or an equivalent position.

An employer can require the employee to provide evidence that the employee took the leave due to abusive behavior towards the employee or a family member of the employee. The evidence can include any of the following:

(1) A protective order, order of equitable relief, or other documentation issued by a court of competent jurisdiction because of abusive behavior against the employee or employee’s family member.

(2) A document under the letterhead of the court, provider, or public agency which the employee attended for the purposes of acquiring assistance as it relates to the abusive behavior against the employee or the employee’s family member complained about.

(3) A police report or statement of a victim or witness provided to police, including a police incident report, documenting the abusive behavior by the employee or the employee’s family member.

(4) Documentation that the perpetrator of the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee has: admitted to sufficient facts to support a finding of guilt of abusive behavior; or has been convicted of, or has been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent because of, any offense constituting abusive behavior and which is related to the abusive behavior that necessitated the leave under this section.

(5) Medical documentation of treatment due to the abusive behavior complained of by the employee or employee’s family member.

(6) A sworn statement, signed under the penalties of perjury, provided by a counselor, social worker, health care worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker, legal advocate, or other professional who has assisted the employee or the employee’s family member in addressing the effects of the abusive behavior.

(7) A sworn statement, signed under the penalties of perjury, from the employee attesting that the employee has been the victim of abusive behavior or is the family member of a victim of abusive behavior. The employer may maintain any documentation provided to an employer under this section in the employee’s employment record but only for as long as required for the employer to determine whether the employee is eligible for leave under this section.

The employee is not required to provide evidence of an arrest, conviction, or other law enforcement documentation of the abuse.

Documentation shared with an employer supporting taking leave because of abuse is confidential. The employer can only share the information if the employee agrees in writing, a court order directs the information be produced, law enforcement requires the information, or sharing the information is necessary to protect the safety of the employees at the workplace.

Unfortunately, the law falls short because the employer is not obligated to pay the employee during the leave period. The law gives the employer sole discretion to determine whether any leave taken is paid or unpaid.

If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.

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