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Washington State Domestic Violence Leave: What Employees Need To Know

Posted by Alesha Struthers | Mar 19, 2019 | 0 Comments

What is Domestic Violence Leave Law?

Domestic Violence Leave law allows victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and their family members to take reasonable leave, from work to obtain legal assistance, medical treatment, mental health counseling, participate in safety planning, or relocate. RCW 49.76.030

Which Employers Must Comply With the Domestic Violence Leave Law?

Employers with one or more employees must comply with the law. RCW 49.12.005(3)(a); RCW 49.76.020(3).

Employee RIGHTS Under Domestic Violence Leave:

  • Right to take reasonable leave to get help or help a family member with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Protection against their employers taking any negative action against an employee because they are an actual or perceived victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Protection against losing any pay or benefits that accrued to the employee before the date on which the leave started.
  • Right to retain their health insurance at the same level as if leave had not been taken during leave.
  • Right to be placed in the same or similar position they held prior to taking leave upon their return.
  • Right to request a reasonable safety accommodationRight to file a civil action for injury caused by a violation of Domestic Violence Leave.

Employee OBLIGATIONS Under Domestic Violence Leave:

  • If possible, provide employer advanced notice, and if not possible, provide notice by the end of the first day leave is taken.
  • If requested by their employer, provide verification that he or she, or their family member, is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, and that the leave taken was for one of the purposes described.

What Duration of Leave is Allowed?

Employees are allowed to take reasonable leave, meaning leave that is reasonable in duration. The reasonableness of duration of leave is determined on a case by case basis considering the reasons for taking leave under RCW 49.76.030. WAC 296-135-050.

Is Leave Paid or Unpaid?

An employee may choose to take unpaid or paid leave including sick leave and other paid time off, or compensatory time.

What Manner of Leave May an Employee Take?

An employee may take intermittent leave; leave on a reduced worked schedule or leave in a single block of time. WAC 296-135-040.

Are Employees Protected Against Adverse Actions if They Choose to Take Domestic Violence Leave?

Yes. Employers may not discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, deny a promotion to, sanction, discipline, retaliate against, harass or otherwise discriminate against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because the employee exercised their rights under Domestic Violence Leave. RCW 49.76.120.

What Are Employers Required to do During an Employee's Leave?

During leave, employers must maintain the employee's health insurance at the same level as if leave had not been taken. RCW 49.76.050(2).

What Are Employers Required to do When an Employee Returns From Leave?

Upon the employee's return, employers must place the employee in the same or similar position that they held prior to taking leave. RCW 49.76.050(2).

What Kind of Reasonable Safety Accommodations May an Employee Request?

Employees may request reasonable safety accommodations such as a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, changed work email, changed work telephone number, changed work station or any other adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility or work requirement in response to actual or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. RCW 49.76.115(3).  

What Remedies Do Employees Have if Domestic Violence Leave is Violated?

Any employee injured by a violation of Domestic Violence Leave may file a civil action in court to prevent further violations or recover actual damages, or both. RCW 49.76.100.

What Kind of Notice Must Employees Provide Their Employer?

An employee must provide advance notice to their employer that they will be taking leave. RCW 49.76.040(1). If the employer has a policy governing the timing of notice, the request must be consistent with that policy. RCW 49.76.040(1). However, if an employee needs leave because of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance, they – or someone they designate—must give their employer notice of the leave no later than the end of the first day on which the leave is taken. RCW 49.040(1).

Do Employees Have to Provide Verification When They Request Domestic Violence Leave?

If their employer requests verification, employees must provide verification to support their request for Domestic Violence Leave. RCW 49.76.040(2). Verification must be provided in a timely manner, or in the case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance, within a reasonable time during or after leave is taken. RCW 49.76.040(3).

What Verification Must an Employee Provide Their Employer?

An employee may choose to provide any of the following as verification:

  1. A police report indicating the employee or employee's family member was a victim of domestic violence;
  2. A court order providing protection to the victim;
  3. Documentation that the employee or the employee's family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking from an advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical professional or other professional, from whom the employee sought assistance in addressing domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking;
  4. An employee's written statement that the employee or employee's family member is a victim of domestic violence and needs assistance. RCW 49.76.040(4)(a)-(d).

About the Author

Alesha Struthers

I am a Consumer and Family law attorney as well as an HR & Employment consultant focused on providing solutions to individuals, families and small- and medium-sized employers. When you work with me you will find that I am: Efficient and dedicated to solving any problems that you may have. I...

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