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New Legislation Protects Employees Who are Victims of Family Violence

On October 1, 2010, a new Connecticut law went into effect which provides additional employment protections to victims of family violence and an allowance of leave time for employees dealing with issues relating to family violence. Before October 1, 2010, Connecticut law prohibited employers from terminating, penalizing, threatening, or otherwise coercing employees with respect to their employment because they had a restraining or protective order issued on their behalf, were subpoenaed in a criminal proceeding, or were a crime victim attending a court proceeding or participating in a criminal investigation.

The new law extends this prohibition to include employees who are victims of family violence and employees who attend or participate in civil proceedings related to cases in which they are victims of family violence. Under the new law, Connecticut employers will be required to provide time off to family violence victims that reasonably need to: (1) seek medical care or counseling for physical or psychological injuries or disabilities; (2) obtain services from a victim services organization; (3) relocate because of family violence; or (4) participate in any civil or criminal proceeding related to or resulting from family violence. The new leave requirement applies only to employers that have a minimum of three employees and is capped at twelve days of unpaid leave per calendar year. Employers are permitted to provide this benefit in the form of paid leave, but the law does not require them to do so. Employees are required to provide seven days’ notice for foreseeable absences and sign a written statement certifying that the leave is being taken for a purpose authorized under the statute. Employers may request a police or court record or a signed written statement from a licensed professional or victim services organization certifying that the employee is a victim of family violence.

In the wake of this new legislation, it is imperative that Connecticut employers begin reviewing their leave policies to ensure that they comply with the new law. This may require revising employee handbooks and manuals, as well as promulgating new policies that explain the circumstances under which an employee will be granted time off to handle issues stemming from family violence.