Domestic Violence Leave Act

Your safety and the safety of your loved ones is paramount. If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic violence, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney that can help you navigate the legal system. The lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. can assist you in seeking a restraining order. At Bellotti Law Group, P.C., we can help you seek justice and keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Call 617-255-2100 today for a free consultation. 

What is the Domestic Violence Leave Act? 

In August of 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed a Massachusetts law entitled the Domestic Violence Leave Act, or DVLA. The DVLA gives employees, who are victims of domestic violence, the protected right to leave work. If an employee, or a family member of the employee, is a victim of abusive behavior, then employers are required to provide Massachusetts employees with up to 15 days leave from work in a 1 year period. In this context, abusive behavior is defined as domestic violence, criminal stalking, kidnapping or sexual assualt. Only employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide domestic violence leave to their employees. 

What Reasons Qualify for a Domestic Violence Leave?

Employees can take leave under this act for the following reasons: 

  • To find or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance

  • To obtain a protective order in court 

  • To secure housing 

  • To appear in court or before a grand jury

  • To meet with the district attorney 

  • To meet with law enforcement officials about abusive behavior 

  • To attend child custody proceedings 

  • To address issues directly related to abusive behavior against the employee or the employee's family member. Family members are defined as: 

  • Parents, grandparents or step-parents

  • Children, step-children or grandchildren

  • Siblings 

  • Married spouses 

  • Persons in a substantive dating or engagement relationship who reside with one another 

  • Persons having a child in common regardless of whether they were ever married or resided together 

  • Persons involved in a guardian relationship

Will I Be Paid During a Domestic Violence Leave? 

Employers have the discretion to determine whether the leave is paid or unpaid. The DVLA specifies that employees must utilize all available vacation, personal, and sick time before they may take domestic violence leave. The employer has the right to specifically waive this requirement. 

How Do I Get a Domestic Violence Leave? 

Employees must provide advance notice to their employers that they are requesting to take leave under the DVLA. Notices of a DVLA leave may be given to the employer by the employee, a family member of the employee, the employee’s counselor, social worker, healthcare worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker, legal advocate, or other professionals who have assisted the employee in addressing the abusive behavior and the effects of abuse. 

If an employee (or an employee’s family member) is in imminent danger, they may leave without advance notice. In the case of a threat of imminent danger, employees or a representative of the employee should provide notice of the leave within three working days after the employee has left. Imminent danger includes threats to the employees health or safety, or threats to the health or safety of the employee’s family member. 

If an employee takes an unscheduled absence under the DVLA, employees should provide documentation that supports the need for leave within 30 days of the leave of absence to their company. If the documentation is provided, employers may not take disadvantageous employment action towards their employee. 

Valid documentation that supports a DVLA leave are: 

  • Protective orders issued by a court 

  • Letters from the court or agency addressing the abusive behavior 

  • Police reports 

  • Medical documentation of treatment as a result of the abusive behavior 

  • A sworn statement signed under pains and penalties of perjury provided by a counselor, social worker, healthcare worker, member of the clergy, shelter work, legal advocate or a professional who has assisted the employee in addressing the abusive behavior 

  • A sworn statement signed under the penalties of perjury from the employee that attests they have been a victim of abusive behavior, or that a family member has been a victim of abusive behavior

The documentation that supports a DVLA leave may be maintained by the employer in the employee's employment record. Employers may only maintain the document for the amount of time needed to determine whether the employee is eligible for DVLA leave. 

Is the Information I give my Employer for a Domestic Violence Leave Confidential?

Under the DVLA, employers must keep all information regarding the employee’s leave confidential. If the employee consents in writing to the disclosure of information regarding their leave, the employer may disclose the information. A court can order for the information to be disclosed, or the information may be required to be disclosed under applicable state or federal law. The DVLA states that employers may not coerce or interfere with the rights provided to employees under this law. Employers may not discharge or discriminate against employees for exercising their rights under the DVLA. Employees that take protected leave maintain their employment benefits prior to their leave, and once an employee returns from their leave, the employee must be restored to their original job or a position of equivalence. 

Employers must notify employees of their rights and their obligations under the DVLA. Employers should develop a written policy for domestic violence leave, and should distribute or post a notice of the right to their Massachusetts employees. 

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office enforces the DVLA. If an employee has been retaliated against for exercising their rights under the DVLA, they are entitled to bring a civil action seeking injunctive relief, lost wages and benefits, and other damages against their employer. In Massachusetts, employees whose claims prevail receive mandatory triple damages and attorneys’ fees from their employer. 

Contact An Attorney 

Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. We have attorneys licensed to practice in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. We have successfully handled hundreds of domestic violence cases and know that many times a person has been wrongly accused of domestic violence in an attempt to damage one's reputation and gain an upper hand in divorce or custody matters. No matter the circumstances surrounding your case, the attorneys at Bellotti Law carefully assess your case and present the best possible criminal defense on your behalf.

Bellotti Law Group, P.C. serves Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Braintree, the South Shore, and all of Massachusetts. Contact us today at 617-225-2100. You can also contact us through our online form and we will promptly respond.


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