Advocates for the safety of domestic violence victims in Colorado and across the nation are watching as New Jersey has passed a law that gives unpaid time off to workers who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act took effect on Oct. 1, 2013, and applies to businesses that have more than 24 employees. In order to qualify, a worker must have been with the employer for at least one year, and must have worked at least 1,000 hours during the prior 12 months. New Jersey now joins several other states that have enacted similar legislation, including Colorado.
Workers can use the time (up to 20 days during a 12-month period) for various reasons. They can see a doctor for injuries, seek help from a victim assistance program, attend mental health or domestic violence counseling, relocate, pursue legal help or attend court. Whenever possible, they need to inform their employer in writing that they will need time off; however, the SAFE Act also takes into consideration that they might not have enough time to provide notice.
Employers have the right to request documentation of the incident, such as a restraining order, paperwork on the person’s conviction or medical documentation. A letter from a number of qualifying specialists, such as the court, an attorney, a social worker, a domestic violence advocate, a rape counselor, a clergy member, or other appropriate professional can also serve as documentation.
Domestic violence can cause both physical and psychological harm. An attorney experienced in family law matters may be able to suggest various remedies such as protective orders that may be available to a victim of such abuse.
Source: Forbes, “Domestic violence and sexual assault, NJ becomes the latest to provide leave for victimized employees“, Gene Connors, September 26, 2013