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Connecticut's Family Violence Leave Law

  • June 10, 2010

Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell has signed a new law that entitles employees who are victims of family violence to take leave from work.  Connecticut law already provides a right to leave for employees who are victims of certain crimes to attend court proceedings and participate in a police investigation relating to the crime.  Leave due to family violence provides additional reasons for victims of certain crimes to take leave.  The law, signed June 7, is effective October 1, 2010.

“Family violence” is an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault between family or household members. Verbal abuse or arguments generally will not constitute “family violence” unless there is a present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.

Leave Entitlement

Employers with three employees or more are required to provide up to 12 days of leave to employees who are victims of family violence for the following reasons:

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

All employees are eligible for leave due to family violence.  The leave may be paid or unpaid and may include compensatory time, vacation time, personal days off or other time off.
The statute makes it unlawful to discharge, penalize or threaten or otherwise coerce employees who seek or take leave pursuant to the statute.

Employee Obligations

If the need for leave is foreseeable, employees may be required to give at least seven days’ notice to the employer. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, employees may be required to give notice as soon as practicable.

To support a leave request, an employee may be required to provide the following types of certifications:

  • a signed, written statement certifying that the leave is for a purpose authorized by this law;
  • a police or court record related to the family violence; or
  • a signed, written statement that the employee is a victim of family violence from an employee or agent of a victim services organization, an attorney, an employee of the office of victim services or victim advocate, or a medical professional or other professional from whom the employee has sought assistance concerning the incident of family violence.

Damages Available

Employees have the right to file a civil action directly with a court for damages and other equitable relief, including reinstatement and rescission of the employment decision that violated the statute.  The statute also provides that a prevailing plaintiff is allowed reasonable attorney's fees.

What Should Employers Do?

Employers should develop policies or internal guidelines addressing such areas as employee notice and certification requirements prior to the law’s October 1st effective date.  This would provide the company with a consistent and uniform approach in responding to requests for leave due to family violence, and is a sensible, cost-effective strategy to significantly reduce, or eliminate, the risk of an employee filing a discrimination claim or prevailing on a claim under the new leave law.

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Please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you usually work for additional information on the requirements of this law and related compliance issues.

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