In what the United Nations has described as a “shadow pandemic,” the reported cases of domestic abuse have risen by at least 20% since COVID-19 started and is likely much higher because of unreported cases. As employers welcome staff back to the workplace, they should be aware of potential domestic violence issues and the Florida Domestic Violence Leave Law. This Statute applies to businesses that employ 50 or more employees and to employees who have been employed by the employer for three or more months.
The law protects a worker’s job if the worker needs time off because of domestic violence. Specifically, the law allows an employee up to three working days of leave from work in any 12- month period if the employee or a family or household member of an employee is the victim of domestic violence or sexual violence. An employer retains the ability to decide if the time off is paid or unpaid leave. The requested leave may be used to:
- Seek a court order against domestic or sexual violence.
- Obtain medical care or mental health counseling needed because of domestic violence.
- Obtain services from a victim services organization.
- Make the employee’s home secure from the perpetrator or to seek new housing to escape the perpetrator.
- Meet with an attorney or attend court related to domestic or sexual violence.
While an employer must comply with the Domestic Violence Leave Law, the law also affords several significant rights and protections to an employer. First, an employee is required to provide an employer with “appropriate advance notice” of the intention to take leave unless
doing so would result in “imminent danger to the health and safety of the employee.” Second, an employer has the right to request “sufficient documentation of the act of domestic violence or sexual violence” from the employee. Finally, an employee has the right to require an employee to use any available vacation, personal, or sick leave before granting leave under the Domestic Violence Leave Law.