Domestic Violence Leave Becomes Law in Massachusetts

by Fisher Phillips

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law An Act Relative to Domestic Violence on August 8, 2014.This far-reaching law, which institutes reforms throughout the criminal justice system, mandates that all public and private employers with more than 50 employees must permit employees impacted by domestic violence to take up to 15 days of leave in any 12 month period.  This leave may be paid or unpaid at the employer’s discretion.  Employers are not required to grant leave if the employee is the perpetrator of abusive behavior against a family member.  Employers are specifically required to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

An employee will be eligible for domestic violence leave if: 

  • the employee, or a family member of the employee, is a victim of abusive behavior and 
  • the employee is using the leave from work for purposes closely related to the abusive behavior, including obtaining medical attention or counseling, securing housing, attending court proceedings, and obtaining other victims’ services.  

The statute’s definition of “abusive behavior” is broad, including both physical and mental abuse.  Employers may require employees to exhaust all other available forms of leave, including vacation, sick time, and personal leave, prior to requesting or taking domestic violence leave.

Except where there is a threat of imminent danger, employees are required to provide “appropriate notice” of their need for leave.  While the statute does not specifically define “appropriate notice,” employers should use the same notice period required in their other leave policies. This notice may be communicated by either the employee or another person acting on the employee’s behalf. If an unscheduled absence occurs, an employer may not take any negative action against the employee if the employee produces documentation within 30 days. 

Employers can also require employees to produce documentation of their need for leave.  All documentation provided to the employer must be kept confidential and cannot be disclosed except as provided by statute. Additionally, this documentation may only be retained for as long as is required for the employer to determine the employee’s eligibility for leave.  

Like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, the statute includes anti-interference and anti-retaliation provisions which prohibit an employer from interfering with an employee’s attempt to exercise his or her rights or “discharg[ing] or in any other manner discriminat[ing]” against an employee for exercising his or her rights under this section.  The statute specifically provides that the employer may not make the employee’s exercise of his or her rights contingent on whether the victim maintains contact with the alleged abuser.  The statute also provides that upon the employee’s return from leave, the employee shall be entitled to restoration to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent position.  

The statute will be enforced by the Massachusetts Attorney General who is entitled to seek either injunctive relief or other equitable relief.  Employees who believe their rights under this act have been violated may also bring private actions using the same provision as other Massachusetts wage and hour violations. 

This law does leave some unanswered questions, including whether intermittent leave will be available and whether this leave may run concurrently with other available leaves.  It is not difficult to conceive of a situation in which an employee, injured by domestic violence, might simultaneously be eligible for both domestic violence leave and FMLA or other state or local leaves.  Additionally, an employee who suffers impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities as a result of domestic violence, including post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses, might require reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.   

Massachusetts employers with 50 or more employees should move quickly to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under this law and update their policies to include domestic violence leave.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fisher Phillips | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Fisher Phillips

Fisher Phillips on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.