Proposed Domestic Violence Leave Act Would Expand the Scope of the FMLA

Recently, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced the Domestic Violence Leave Act (H.R. 2515).  The Act would amend the FMLA to permit victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (as those terms are defined in the Violence Against Women Act) and their family members to take leave as a result of the violence.   Specifically, the Act would permit a qualified employee to take leave to seek medical attention, legal assistance, or psychological counseling, or to attend support groups, as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking directed at the employee or a family member.  In addition, the Act would permit leave to participate in safety planning or other activities necessitated by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  The employer could require a certification that the employee requires leave for the reasons outlined in the Act.  Court or police records, or other records substantiating the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, would meet the certification requirement.

If the legislation is signed into law, it would not be the first time that leave unrelated to medical care or childbirth would be made available to eligible employees.  Under the amendments to the FMLA occasioned by the National Defense Authorization Act, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave due to "any qualifying exigency" arising out of the fact the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty, or has been notified of an impending call to active duty status, in support of a contingency operation.  Under those amendments, qualified employees can take leave to meet with legal counsel, make childcare arrangements, and take other similar actions necessary to deal with the family member's active duty status.

The Domestic Violence Leave Act also would amend the FMLA by adding the phrase "or domestic partner" wherever the  word "spouse" appears in the Act.  This change previously was proposed in H.R. 2132, which I discussed in my post on May 12, 2009, and which has been referred to Committee.   We should anticipate that any upcoming bills to amend the FMLA will include a provision expanding the definition of "family member" to include a domestic partner. 



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