Victims of domestic violence in New York may soon be entitled to a 90-day unpaid leave of absence. The New York State Senate labor committee passed Bill S.2509 on April 15, 2013. Under the bill, New York’s labor law would be amended to give victims of domestic violence the right to take time off from work with job protection.

The bill is one of several domestic violence-related bills currently in the New York legislature. However, there is concern that a 90-day period is much longer than other permitted leaves of absence under New York State law. Advocates of the bill have countered that any leave under the law would be unpaid, and employers may charge accrued vacation time against the 90-day period.

Employers who fail to provide protected leave would face stiff penalties. Workers denied leave could sue for wages, benefits and other compensation, including job reinstatement. Employers could be held liable for other penalties if a willful violation is found.

Employers should watch for further action on this bill and other similar bills pending before the New York legislature. It would also be prudent to consider changes that may be necessary in employee handbooks and policies if and when the bill becomes law.