Washington state was one of the early adopters of a so-called “domestic violence leave law.” Effective June 7, 2018, the scope of that law will expand greatly. The law currently applies to all Washington employers and guarantees the victims of domestic violence access to unpaid leave from their job if they meet a few conditions. The amendments to the original law broaden the scope beyond paid leave to require employers to take reasonable safety precautions in order to protect employees who are victims of domestic violence.
Washington State's Existing Domestic Violence Leave Law
Under Washington's current domestic violence leave law, an employee who is a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault is entitled to unpaid leave from work under certain circumstances. The statute also applies to employees who have a “qualifying family member” who is a victim of these crimes. A qualifying family member can be a parent, grandparent, child, spouse, parents-in-law, or a person who the employee has a dating relationship with. An employee is authorized to take leave:
- to seek assistance from law enforcement to ensure the safety of the employee and their family;
- to seek treatment for physical or mental harm the employee faces due to domestic violence;
- to obtain assistance from social services programs like a rape crisis center or women's shelter;
- to obtain mental health counseling; or
- to relocate or take other actions designed to improve the safety of the employee and their family.
The law bars employers for firing an employee for taking unpaid leave for any of the actions listed above. An employer has the right to request verification supporting the domestic violence threat. While a written statement from the employee will suffice under the law, many employers prefer official documents like police reports.
Changes to Washington's Domestic Violence Leave Law
Thanks to the changes brought about by House Bill 2661, the domestic violence leave law goes much farther than just requiring unpaid time off. The law will now require employers to make accommodations for the safety and security of employees who are victims of domestic violence. The employee must show that the accommodation doesn't pose an “undue hardship” on the employer, meaning the accommodation doesn't cost signification expense or difficulty. The amendment provides a non-comprehensive list of potential accommodations that include:
- schedule modification;
- changed e-mail addresses;
- changed phone numbers;
- moved workstations;
- lock installation;
- implemented safety procedures; or
- any other adjustment to the duties or workplace of an employee that would protect them from actual or threatened domestic violence.
Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Washington
Anyone who is facing domestic violence charges knows that a domestic violence case can make life exceedingly difficult. It's important to note that if you've been charged with domestic violence, a Washington lawyer with experience in domestic violence cases may be able to help. Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor who now focuses his career on providing the best defense possible for those who are facing prosecution. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense in the Seattle area, feel free to contact The Law Offices of Steve Karimi to set up your free consultation.