Existing law prohibits an employer from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking for taking time off from work for certain purposes related to addressing the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. As of July 1, 2017, employers with 25 or more employees must now provide written notice of the rights and duties under the existing law. A recent bill amended Labor Code section 230.1 to include employer notice requirements and ordered the Labor Commission to develop a sample form for employers to use to comply. If an employer chooses not to use the form, the notice used must be substantially similar in content and clarity. Whatever form is used must include information explaining an employee’s right to take time off, right to reasonable accommodations, right to be free from discrimination and retaliation, and right to file a complaint.
Although the rights under Labor Code section 230 for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking have not changed, the new notice requirement imparts more responsibility on employers and thus warrants a refresher.
Right to Time Off – Employees who are the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are permitted to take time off to:
- Seek medical attention;
- Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center;
- Obtain psychological counseling;
- Participate in safety planning, including temporary or permanent relocation;
The employee must give reasonable advance notice to the extent feasible. Employees may take unpaid leave or use paid time off benefits that may be accrued including vacation, PTO, personal leave, or sick leave.
Right to be Free from Discrimination/Retaliation – An employer may not discharge or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against employees who are the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and who take time off work for one of the purposes outlined above. If any actions are taken against an employee in violation of these sections, the employee is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits. An employer who willfully refuses to restore an employee who has been determined to be eligible for rehiring by a grievance procedure or hearing authorized by law is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Right to Accommodations – Employers must provide reasonable accommodations which may include “safety measures, including a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, changed work telephone, changed work station, installed lock, assistance in documenting domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that occurs in the workplace, an implemented safety procedure, or another adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement.” (Labor Code § 230.)
Right to File a Complaint – Employees must also be notified of their right to file a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement if the employer discriminates against the employee on any basis discussed herein.
Thoughts on Compliance:
It is important to confirm written notice is provided to new employees on the date of hire and is made available to current employees upon request. It may also be advisable to update your employee handbooks and/or policies to include employee obligations for providing advance notice for time off and outline the manner of providing proof or certification for an unscheduled absence.
If you have questions regarding how to comply with the new notice enactment, contact our employment law attorneys to schedule a consultation.