Question:

My father has Alzheimer’s disease and he was a victim of a violent robbery. The case is about to go to trial and my mother will be there to care for and support him. However, my mother needs my assistance. I have asked for time off work to attend the trial with my mom, and my employer told me that I can only take my accrued vacation as time off to attend the trial. Can my employer limit my time off in this fashion? I do not think I have enough accrued vacation to attend the trial every day. Also, while I do not mind using some of my accrued vacation to cover the time off, I do not want to use all of my vacation for this purpose as I already have a trip planned later this year.

Answer:

As of January 1, 2004, employers in California must provide employees who are related to a victim of certain crimes unlimited time off to attend judicial proceedings related to that crime.

The Crime Victims Leave law, SB 478, was signed by Governor Davis on September 30, 2003. This law provides leave to victims of violent felonies, serious felonies, and felonies relating to theft or embezzlement, and it applies to all employers, regardless of size. SB 478 allows an employee who is a victim of a covered crime, or the immediate family member of a victim, to take time off work in order to attend the judicial proceedings related to that particular crime. For purposes of this law, an immediate family member is a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, stepchild, brother, stepbrother, sister, stepsister, mother, stepmother, father, or stepfather, and child of a registered domestic partner.

Before an employee can be absent from work to attend judicial proceedings, the employee must provide their employer with a copy of the notice of each scheduled judicial proceeding, unless providing advance notice is not feasible. If an unscheduled absence occurs, or advance notice is not provided or feasible, the employee must provide documentation evidencing the judicial proceeding from one of the following:

  • The court or government agency that set the hearing
  • The district attorney or prosecuting attorney’s office
  • The victim/witness’ office that is advocating on behalf of the victim

The employee can elect to use paid or unpaid leave for Crime Victims Leave. The employer must keep any records regarding the use of Crime Victims Leave confidential. Also, the employer may not terminate or discriminate against the person taking Crime Victims Leave.

It appears that your employer may be unaware of this new law. Because your father was the victim of a violent felony, you are probably eligible for Crime Victims Leave for the duration of the trial. I suggest that you present your employer with appropriate documentation regarding your need to attend this judicial proceeding, together with information regarding this new law, and renew your request for time off to attend the trial.
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