New York City May Soon Guarantee Paid Leave for Domestic Violence Victims

A new bill passed in New York City would, if signed into law by the mayor, require employers to grant paid time off to workers who say they’ve been victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or “family offense matters.”

The bill, which on Tuesday passed the City Council unanimously, seeks to amend the city code in order to extend paid time off to include what’s been labeled “safe time,” allowing victims of abuse to access rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters or any other service they need following an assault without worrying whether their jobs are at stake.

“Often times, women would miss appointments with either a DA, or miss appointments at the police precinct, or, unfortunately in cases, had to go and serve orders of protection, they had to go themselves and weren’t able to do that because they weren’t able to take the time off work,” Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said during a press conference.

If signed, New York will join cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh that guarantee paid leave to employees needing to deal with incidents of domestic and sexual violence.

Though New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has not said whether he intends to sign the legislation into law, he did say during the bill’s introduction last year that he supports it.

“No woman should have to decide between her safety and her paycheck,” he said during a press conference at the time. “We need to make sure that work will be protected, not interrupted; that pay will be protected, not interrupted while a woman pursues justice―while she takes care of things she needs to ensure her safety.”

Julie Owens, a domestic violence survivor who consults for federal agencies about how best to work with victims, told Broadly that such laws as the one on de Blasio’s desk right now “can literally be life-saving:”

“Over my nearly 30 years of work with victims, many have told me that they were fired or forced from jobs for ‘going to court too much’ or for staying home when they were covered with bruises, or for literally being trapped in the house by their abuser who refused to allow them to leave for work during or after a violent incident,” Owens says. “Others were so afraid of being fired due to rigid workplace policies that they just did not pursue justice or safety when they needed to, and so their abuse continued much longer. Still others were required to appear in court time and time again when their abusers were fighting them in divorce proceedings, refusing to split the marital assets equitably and/or trying to get custody of the children.”

The legislation also overlaps with the city’s paid sick leave rules, which mandate that employees working more than 80 hours a year accrue at least 40 hours of paid sick leave.