Effective July 1, 2007, certain employers in Florida must allow employees to take leave for domestic violence-related issues. The new law (codified at Florida Statutes § 741.313) permits an eligible employee to take up to three working days of leave in any twelve-month period, if the employee or a family or household member is the victim of domestic violence.

Covered Employers:
The new law applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees.

Covered Employees:
Only employees who have been employed by the employer for three or more months are entitled to domestic violence leave.

Protected Activities:
Employees may use the leave to: (1) seek an injunction for protection against domestic violence; (2) obtain medical care and/or mental health counseling to address physical or psychological injuries; (3) obtain services from a victim-services organization; (4) make the employee's home secure or seek new housing; and (5) seek legal assistance or prepare for court-related proceedings.

Employer's Duties:
The employer must allow the employee to take up to three working days of leave in any twelve-month period. The employer is not required to pay the employee for the leave, although it may do so in its discretion.

Advance Notice:
The employee is required to provide the employer with appropriate advance notice of the leave “as required by the employer's policy,” except in cases of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or a family or household member. The employer also may require the employee to provide documentation of the act of domestic violence. Because this is an important protection for employers, all employers should include the amount of advance notice and documentation required in their leave policies.

Limitations on Leave:
The employee must exhaust all annual or vacation leave, personal leave, and sick leave before he or she becomes eligible for Domestic Violence Leave, although the employer may waive this requirement.

Anti-Retaliation Provision:
Florida Statutes § 741.313 prohibits employers from interfering with an employee's right to take Domestic Violence Leave or discharging, demoting, suspending, retaliating, or discriminating against an employee for exercising his or her right to take Domestic Violence Leave.
Confidentiality Provision:
Employers must keep all information relating to the employee's leave confidential.

Available Remedies:
An employee whose rights have been violated may file a lawsuit in state circuit court for damages (monetary relief) or equitable relief (e.g., an order requiring the employer to reinstate the employee). The employee may recover damages for lost wages and benefits, if he or she would have been entitled to them if the violation had not occurred. If, however, the employee would have been granted leave without pay, he or she may not recover lost wages or benefits for the period of the leave.