Massachusetts State Laws on Taking Leave From Work Due to Domestic Violence

If you are facing domestic violence, Massachusetts law gives you some rights that other states don't.

Massachusetts law recognizes that employees may find it difficult to work when they are worried about their own safety and the safety of their children. If you have experienced domestic violence, you may have the right to take some time off work to get legal help, seek medical care, or meet other needs relating to the abuse. Below, we explain your right to domestic violence leave in Massachusetts.

Who the Law Protects in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’s domestic violence leave law applies only to larger employers: those with at least 50 employees. You may take leave under the law if you or your family member is a victim of abusive behavior: stalking, kidnapping, sexual assault, or domestic violence.

Notice and Documentation Requirements

Massachusetts law requires employees who want to take domestic violence leave to follow their employer’s policy for giving notice before taking leave. This rule doesn’t apply if you are in imminent danger. In that situation, you don’t have to give notice in advance, but must inform your employer that you are taking domestic violence leave within three work days. You can provide this notice yourself, or it may be provided by your family member, counselor, health care provider, legal advocate, or other professional who is working with you to address the effects of the abusive behavior.

Your employer may ask you to provide documentation that you needed leave for abusive behavior. You may meet this requirement by providing any of the following:

  • a protective order or other documentation of the abuse issued by a court
  • a document on the letterhead of a court, provider, or public agency, which you attended to get help with the abuse
  • a police report, victim statement, or witness statement provided to the police regarding the abuse
  • documentation showing that the abuser has been convicted for, been adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent for, or admitted to, the abuse
  • medical documentation of treatment for the abuse
  • a sworn statement, signed under penalty of perjury, by a clergy member, counselor, health care provider, legal advocate, or other professional who is assisting you relating to the abuse, or
  • your own sworn statement, signed under penalty of perjury, regarding the abuse.

As long as you provide documentation within 30 days of taking time off, your employer may not discipline you for your absence.

Massachusetts Confidentiality Rules

Employees often worry that their employer might retaliate against them for requesting time off. But Massachusetts law prohibits employers from firing, demoting, suspending, or otherwise discriminating against employees because they need domestic violence leave.

You may also be concerned that your coworkers will learn painful personal details about your private life, or worse, that your abuser will learn you are taking time off to seek legal protection or relocate. The law requires your employer to keep all records and information about your leave, including any documents you are required to provide, confidential. They may not keep these records any longer than is necessary to determine that you are eligible for leave for abusive behavior.

But remember that your safety planning may not be private. As you research how to protect yourself and your family, remember that your abuser may have access to your phone records and Internet search history. If you use the same computer as your abuser or share a phone plan, for example, your abuser may find out what you are looking at and who you are talking to. Consider using someone else’s phone or computer for your safety planning.

Taking Time Off for Domestic Violence

Employers in Massachusetts must allow employees to take up to 15 days off in a 12-month period, in order to:

  • get medical care or counseling
  • seek legal assistance or victim services
  • obtain housing
  • get a protective order
  • appear in court or before a grand jury
  • attend child custody proceedings
  • meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official, or
  • deal with other matters directly related to the abusive behavior.

If you have accrued paid time off (such as vacation time, sick days, PTO, or annual leave), you must use it up before seeking leave under this provision. However, your employer can waive this requirement.

You may be entitled to paid leave under other policies or laws, however. Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that requires certain employers—those with at least ten employees—to provide paid sick leave. (Smaller employees also have to provide leave, but it can be unpaid.) Employees can use their paid leave for specific reasons, including to address the physical, psychological, or legal effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee's child. Learn more about Massachusetts's paid sick leave law.

If you or a family member has suffered injuries or trauma that qualify as a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may qualify for leave under that law as well. Learn more about your rights under the FMLA.

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