Mandated Paid Safe Days

Protect employees

There are many unanticipated, unfair reasons why employees miss work and suffer lost pay, lost opportunities, and even disciplinary action. There are an equal number of emotionally compelling reasons to protect employees in these instances. But does that mean employers should be required to provide protection?

In the cases of serious health conditions for immediate family members, employee disabilities, and society’s military needs, for example, the question has been answered in the affirmative. We have national laws (and in many instances state laws) to address these situations. But what about mandated paid leave for something perhaps more difficult to determine with particularity: instances of domestic violence?

The Seattle City Council has passed a new ordinance requiring among other things that businesses operating within the City and that have 5 or more employees provide paid “safe days” to employees in the City who are victims of domestic violence. The ordinance goes into effect in September 2012.

The amount of paid leave is set on a scale depending on an employer’s size. Smaller employers with 5 to 249 employees are required to grant 56 hours of paid leave. Employers with 250 or more employees must provide 72 hours of paid leave. An employer’s employees are counted for purposes of determining eligibility whether or not the employees work within the City.

An employer with leave policies that provide at least the requisite levels of paid leave generally will satisfy the ordinance if the employer permits use of the leave for instances of domestic violence.

Other urban municipalities are expected to follow Seattle’s lead. But as goes the West Coast, so goes the rest of the nation? Doubtful.

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