The Massachusetts Domestic Violence Act is an expansive law enacted in 2014 that in addition to instituting reforms throughout the criminal justice system and in other areas extends protections to victims of domestic violence and their family members in the workplace.

The law requires private and public employers with 50 or more employees to provide its employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or kidnapping or who have family members who are victims with 15 days of leave from work in any 12 month period. Qualifying reasons for such leave include: seeking or obtaining medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance; securing housing; obtaining a protective order from a court; appearing in court or before a grand jury; meeting with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; attending child custody proceedings; and addressing other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.

Employers may provide the leave paid or unpaid and may require employees to exhaust other available leave time (sick, personal, vacation, etc.) before utilizing leave under this law. In addition, employers may require advance notice before taking leave – unless the employee or employee’s family member is in imminent danger – and documentation substantiating the entitlement to such leave.

Employees are entitled to confidentially with respect to their leave, notice of their rights and responsibilities under this law, to receive all benefits accrued prior to their leave and upon their return, and must be returned to their original job or a substantial equivalent.

Interference with an employee’s attempt to exercise his or rights and retaliation is strictly prohibited. Employers who violate this law are subject to civil action for injunctive relief, lost wages and benefits, as well as other damages, and prevailing employees are entitled to treble damages and attorneys’ fees.

If you are the victim of domestic violence behavior or have a family member who is a victim and you are unsure of what you are entitled to or how to proceed with your employer, or you have been denied leave time or retaliated against for taking leave, Attorney Tara Swartz can help. Contact Swartz Law online or by calling 617-871-1500.