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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Florida Employers Must Grant Leave To Domestic Violence Victims

I've always said that Florida is one of the most anti-employee states in the nation. But we do have some pro-employee laws. One law that many employers forget about is Fla. Stat. Sec. 741.313, which requires them to give leave to employees who are domestic violence and sexual violence victims.

Who is covered?: This applies to employers with 50 or more employees and to an employee who has been employed for at least 3 months. “Victim” means an individual who has been subjected to domestic violence or sexual violence.

When are you covered and how long?: "An employer shall permit an employee to request and take up to 3 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. This leave may be with or without pay, at the discretion of the employer."

What can you use the leave for?: Seeking an injunction, getting medical help, going to a shelter or crisis center, securing the home, and getting legal assistance. Here are the specifics.
This section applies if an employee uses the leave from work to: 
1. Seek an injunction for protection against domestic violence or an injunction for protection in cases of repeat violence, dating violence, or sexual violence;
2. Obtain medical care or mental health counseling, or both, for the employee or a family or household member to address physical or psychological injuries resulting from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence;
3. Obtain services from a victim services organization, including, but not limited to, a domestic violence shelter or program or a rape crisis center as a result of the act of domestic violence or sexual violence;
4. Make the employee’s home secure from the perpetrator of the domestic violence or sexual violence or to seek new housing to escape the perpetrator; or
5. Seek legal assistance in addressing issues arising from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence or to attend and prepare for court-related proceedings arising from the act of domestic violence or sexual violence.

How much notice do you have to give?: If you or a family member are in imminent danger, none. Otherwise, you have to give "appropriate advance notice of the leave as required by the employer’s policy along with sufficient documentation of the act of domestic violence or sexual violence as required by the employer."

What if you have other leave?: "An employee seeking leave under this section must, before receiving the leave, exhaust all annual or vacation leave, personal leave, and sick leave, if applicable, that is available to the employee, unless the employer waives this requirement."

Can your employer tell coworkers about your domestic violence leave?: No. They have to keep it confidential.

Can your employer punish you for taking leave?: No. 

(a) An employer may not interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or any attempt by an employee to exercise any right provided under this section.
(b) An employer may not discharge, demote, suspend, retaliate, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for exercising his or her rights under this section.

What is your remedy?: You can file a civil suit for damages or equitable relief, or both, in circuit court. You can seek all wages and benefits that would have been due up to and including the date of the judgment had the act violating the law not occurred, but you can't claim wages or benefits for a period of leave granted without pay. You still have to mitigate damages by looking for another job or accepting reinstatement if offered.

So there. I said something good about Florida employment law. Happy? 

This law has been on the books since 2007, and there have been precious few pro-employee laws since then (or before). We can still do much better by looking to other states for some pro-employee laws that make sense.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.