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Complying with Crime Victim Leave Laws: What You Need to Know

Oct 4, 2021

Workplace compliance
Paul Kramer

Paul Kramer

Director of Compliance

Many states and Canadian jurisdictions have passed laws granting employees leave from work when they or a covered family member are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, gender violence, stalking, or other crime of violence. Although the details of these laws differ from place to place, they commonly provide time off to attend legal proceedings, to seek medical treatment or counseling, to obtain services from a victims’ rights organization, to participate in safety planning, or to temporarily or permanently relocate or take other action to increase safety.

Additionally, crime victim leave laws often protect employees from retaliation for requesting time off and may require employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to further safeguard workers who are victims. Here are a few newer or recently amended crime victim leave laws you should know about in order to remain compliant.
 

Missouri Leave for Domestic or Sexual Violence

 
On August 28, 2021, employers with at least 20 Missouri employees became legally mandated to provide unpaid leave to employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual violence or whose family or household member is a victim. Employers with 20 to 49 Missouri employees must provide at least one week of leave per year and employers with 50 or more employees must grant two weeks of leave. Reasons for this leave include seeking medical attention and counseling; recovering from physical or psychological injuries; obtaining services from a victim services organization; participating in safety planning; relocating or taking other action to increase the safety of the employee (or family or household member); and pursuing legal remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee (or family or household member), including preparing for civil and criminal actions resulting from the violence. Covered employers must notify current employees of their leave rights by October 27 or upon commencing employment for future employees.
 

Missouri Reasonable Safety Accommodations

 
Missouri employers with at least 20 employees are now required to provide reasonable safety accommodations to employees who experience domestic or sexual violence, unless the accommodation would cause the employer undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations may include leave from work, a modified work schedule, a transfer or reassignment, adjusting a work requirement or job structure, and other actions responding to actual or threatened domestic or sexual violence. This new accommodation requirement took effect August 28, 2021.
 

Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) Amendments

 
Under VESSA, employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, or gender violence, or who have a family or household member who is a victim, may take up to 12 work weeks of leave during any 12-month period to address the violence. The amount of leave available to employees decreases for employers with fewer than 50 workers. Beginning January 1, 2022, amendments to VESSA will also allow employees to take time off if they or a family or household member are a victim of any “crime of violence,” including homicide, sex offenses, assault, offenses involving bodily harm, harassment, armed violence, obscene communications, terrorism, and similar criminal actions. Additionally, the VESSA amendments expand the “family or household members” for whom leave may be taken to include civil union partners, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, any person related to the employee by blood or by present or prior marriage or civil union, individuals sharing a relationship with the employee through a child, and any other closely associated person the employee considers to be like a family member.
 

Amendment to British Columbia Leave Respecting Domestic or Sexual Violence

 
As of August 14, 2020, the British Columbia Employment Standards Act was amended to allow employees to take up to 5 days of paid leave and 5 days of unpaid leave per calendar year if they are affected by domestic violence or sexual violence. An additional 15 weeks of unpaid leave is also available if needed. Before the amendment employees were limited to 10 days of unpaid leave per year to address the violence in addition to 15 weeks of unpaid leave if necessary.
 

Yukon Leave Respecting Domestic or Sexual Violence

 
Effective July 8, 2021, the Yukon Employment Standards Act was amended to provide a combination of paid and unpaid leave to employees if the employee, a child of the employee, or a person to whom the employee provides care or support experiences domestic or sexual violence. Reasons for the leave include seeking medical attention for physical or psychological injuries or disabilities; obtaining services from a victim services organization; obtaining psychological or other professional counseling; relocating for safety reasons; or seeking legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing for or participating in civil or criminal proceedings relating to the violence.

 

In addition to time off under crime victim leave laws, employees who are crime victims may also be eligible for leave under family and medical leave laws, sick/injury leave laws, or company policies and contracts. Each of these entitlements differ as to the duration of the leave, the reasons for leave, whether the time off runs concurrently with other leave entitlements, and whether the leave is paid or unpaid. If an employee requests time off for crime-related reasons and you are unsure if a leave law or rule applies to their request, consult legal counsel immediately.

 

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