Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Laws Enhance Workplace Protections for Family Violence Victims and Require Employers to Provide Leave

CONNECTICUT--Two new laws in Connecticut strengthen the workplace protections available to family violence victims. These laws, which take effect on Oct. 1, require virtually all employers in Connecticut to provide employees who are victims of domestic violence with up to 12 days of family violence leave per calendar year.

House Bill 5497 (P.A. 10-144) amends existing protections for crime victims at work, explicitly prohibiting an employer from “refusing to hire, terminating, penalizing, threatening, or otherwise retaliating against any employee because the worker is a victim of family violence.” The law also provides protection for employees participating in court proceedings related to family violence.

The bill also doubles, from 90 to 180 days, the time an employee has under the statute to bring a civil action against an employer and provides for mandatory attorney's fees if the employee prevails. The statute already provides for fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for employers who violate this law.

Another section of the bill gives employees a new right to take "family violence leave," by requiring all Connecticut employers with three or more workers to provide family violence victims with at least 12 days of paid or unpaid leave if reasonably necessary to:

seek medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability,
obtain services from a victim services organization,
relocate due to family violence reasons, or
participate in any civil or criminal proceeding related to or resulting from such family violence.

The new law does not require employers to pay the employee while on leave but permits employees to use their accrued compensatory time, vacation time, personal days, or other paid time off in connection with the leave. The bill also specifies that this new leave does not affect any other rights available to workers under state or federal law.

Connecticut employers covered by these laws should revise their personnel policies and procedures to be consistent with the new requirements. It would also be prudent for employers to seek advice of counsel when creating a family violence leave policy or updating existing non-retaliation provisions to comply with the new laws.

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