Employers in Florida may be required to provide a leave of absence to employees whose pets are injured or threatened by another family member, if a bill introduced earlier this month becomes law.

The bill would revise the existing Florida domestic violence statute by amending the definition of “domestic violence” to include “inflicting, or attempting to inflict, physical injury against a [pet], … or placing a family or household member in fear of physical harm to a [pet].”

Current law requires many Florida employers to allow employees to take up to three working days of leave within a 12-month period if the employee or a family or household member is the victim of “domestic violence” and the leave is sought for specific reasons related to the “domestic violence.” In an apparent example of unintended consequences, because the definition of “domestic violence” would expand to include injury (and threat of injury) to pets, and the bill contains no relevant employee leave exceptions, covered employers would be required to provide leave to employees whose pets were injured or threatened by a family member (if the leave is used for reasons designated in the statute).

It is to early to predict if this legislation will be passed in its present form, but we will continue to monitor and report developments.