“Safe days” for domestic violence survivors

Abuse from one’s partner takes a terrible toll on victims — physically, emotionally, and socially. Domestic violence, which disproportionately affects women, is also often a major factor in a surprising context: pay equity and career development. Whether they need time away from work to go to court, file a protection order, or chase down a spouse who has fled with the children, victims may end up forced into choosing between their economic livelihood and other precious priorities. Then losing a paycheck or the job itself can easily snowball into greater problems for those in especially precarious financial situations, including car repossession and housing eviction.

That’s why the states and localities are taking action to enact “safe time” laws. Along similar lines, the Obama Administration also recently began offering federal employees paid leave from work that covers safe time. The publication Route Fifty details those developments here:

“At the time Kami was fired, she was not yet able to use paid safe days, but state law did entitle her to take unpaid, job-protected leave for domestic-violence-related reasons,” says Sharon Terman, senior staff attorney of Legal Aid Society—Employment Law Center in San Francisco. “Now that California’s paid safe days law is in effect, Kami will be able to take time off without losing pay or risking her job.”

California is among five states (the others are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont) and a dozen localities (including Chicago, Santa Monica, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC) that have passed “safe time” laws. This chart created by A Better Balance, a national legal advocacy organization that advocates for family-friendly laws and workplace policies, compares state and local laws offering paid sick and safe time.

Recognizing Congress’s sluggish response, president Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13706 in 2015. The Order made paid sick leave—including safe time for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking—mandatory for federal employees.

Given the low likelihood of Congress taking action on the issue, “safe time” laws are a promising idea that more states and cities should pursue. For the full article, see “These Innovative States Want to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors,” Route Fifty (2016).