What Employers Need to Know About Domestic Violence Leave Protection Under Florida Law
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Employers must ensure that they provide employees with leave benefits in compliance with all federal and state regulations. One such lesser-known Florida regulation, Section 741.313, Florida Statutes (the “Act”), mandates employees are provided with leave for certain purposes after encountering domestic violence events. In essence, the Act aims to give victims the opportunity to seek safety, medical care, legal assistance, or counseling without fear of losing their jobs. This blog explores the key provisions of the Act and the contours of an employer’s compliance obligations.
Leave Eligibility and Entitlements
To be subject to the Act, an employer must employ 50 or more employees. § 741.313(3), Fla. Stat. To be eligible, the employee: (i) must have been employed for at least three months; and (2) must be a victim of domestic or sexual violence, or a member of the same family or household as someone who has been a victim of domestic or sexual violence. § 741.313(2)-(3), Fla. Stat.
If eligible, the employee is entitled to request up to three (3) working days of leave within a twelve (12) month period. § 741.313(2)(a), Fla. Stat. The employer may decide whether the leave is with or without pay. Id.
Purposes of Leave
There are some restrictions related to the purposes for which the employee must use the leave and whether the employee is first required to exhaust other available leave options. Employees must use the leave for at least one of the following purposes:
(a) Seeking an injunction for protection against domestic violence or sexual violence.
(b) Obtaining medical care or mental health counseling for themselves or their family or household members to address physical or psychological injuries resulting from the violence.
(c) Seeking services from victim services organizations like domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, etc.
(d) Securing their home from the perpetrator or seeking new housing to escape the violence.
(e) Seeking legal assistance and preparing for court proceedings related to the violence.
Additionally, the employee cannot take leave under Section 741.313 before “exhaust[ing] all annual or vacation leave, personal leave, and sick leave, if applicable, that is available to the employee, unless the employer waives this requirement.” § 741.313(4)(b), Fla. Stat.
Employees seeking leave under this act also must provide appropriate advance notice to their employer, as required by the employer’s policy and sufficient documentation of the domestic violence or sexual violence, as requested by the employer. § 741.313(4)(a), Fla. Stat. However, in cases of imminent danger, employees may be exempted from the advanced notice requirement. § 741.313(4)(a), Fla. Stat. All information related to an employee’s leave under this act must be kept confidential by the employer. § 741.313(4)(c), Fla. Stat.
Protection and Non-Discrimination
The Act expressly provides that employers cannot interfere with, restrain, or deny an employee’s rights to take leave under the Act. § 741.313(5)(a), Fla. Stat. Employers are prohibited from discharging, demoting, suspending, retaliating, or discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under this act. § 741.313(5)(b), Fla. Stat. However, employees are not entitled to greater rights or benefits beyond those they would have had if they had not taken leave under this act. § 741.313(5)(c), Fla. Stat.
The Act provides a private cause of action for individuals claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of its provisions. § 741.313(6), Fla. Stat. Aggrieved employees may bring a civil suit for damages or equitable relief, or both, in circuit court. Id. Damages may include wages and benefits that would have been due to the person up to the date of the judgment had the violation not occurred. Id. However, damages cannot be claimed for periods of leave taken without pay, and employees are not relieved from their obligation to mitigate their damages. Id.
In conclusion, employers must carefully train their managers on, and craft handbook policies to cover diligent compliance with the Act’s provisions to support employees experiencing domestic or sexual trauma and avoid legal recourse through the private causes of action available to employees combatting employer noncompliance. Competent legal counsel should keep the Act in mind when drafting affected employment policies, agreements, and training materials.