Question: Do I have the right to take time off work to protect myself or my children from domestic violence?
Answer: Yes. Under Labor Code section 230, all California employers are prohibited from discharging or in any manner discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and who takes time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief (such as a restraining order) to protect the employee or his or her child. Furthermore, your employer cannot discharge or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against you because of your status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This law applies to companies of any size.
If your employer has 25 or more employees, you also have the right to take protected leave from work to (1) seek medical attention for injuries; (2) obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center; (3) obtain psychological counseling; or (4) participate in safety planning or other actions to increase safety, including temporary or permanent relocation. You must give your employer reasonable notice that you are taking any of the protected leave described above, unless advance notice is not feasible. The employer is required by law to maintain confidentiality regarding such leave.
Unfortunately, many victims are unaware of the job protection rights they have under these laws. To help change this, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law AB 2337, which will require employers with 25 or more employees to give employees written notice of their right to take this protected time off work relating to sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. The notice must be given to all new employees upon hire and to other employees upon request. Employers are required to comply with this new notice requirement as soon as the Labor Commissioner develops, and posts on its website, a template notice for employers, which it must do by July 1, 2017.
Keep in mind that you can use your accrued sick leave under California’s paid sick leave law to take paid days off relating to these issues. Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which applies to all California employers regardless of size, an employee may use accrued paid sick days to obtain certain designated services (such as medical treatment, counseling, legal services, and more) for him or herself or a family member due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If you have experienced violence at your workplace, or credible threats of violence that could reasonably be carried out at your workplace, your employer can obtain a Workplace Violence Restraining Order to protect you. This type of restraining order must be requested by the employer. Alternatively, you can seek a Domestic Violence Restraining Order from the court for protection from close family members or someone that you were involved with romantically at some point. There is also a Civil Harassment Restraining Order, which can be obtained by an individual for protection from neighbors, roommates, coworkers, or more distant family members. Lastly, an Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Restraining Order is appropriate if the person being abused is 65 or older.
Employers should periodically check the Labor Commissioner’s website, http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/, and print and distribute the new notice when it becomes available.