California’s Labor laws have recently been amended to provide certain rights to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. These include the right to take time off from work relating to such issues and the right to reasonable accommodations upon request from the employee. See California Labor Code §§ 230 and 230.1.
Under these new provisions, employers must not discharge, discriminate against or retaliate against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the victim or his or her child. The employee should provide reasonable notice of the need to take time off work, but if they do not, the employee is still protected if they provide a police report, a Court order or other evidence demonstrating that the employee appeared in Court, or documentation from a health care provider or counselor that the employee was undergoing treatment for physical or mental injuries or abuse resulting in victimization from an act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Additionally, employers must not discharge, discriminate against or retaliate against an employee because of an employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking if the victim provides notice or the employer has actual knowledge of the employee’s status.
Moreover, employers with twenty-five (25) or more employees must not discharge, discriminate against or retaliate against an employee who takes time off work to seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center, to obtain psychological counseling, or to participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Employers are also now required to provide reasonable accommodations for a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking who requests an accommodation relating to safety. Such reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to, a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, changed work telephone, changed work station, installed lock, assistance in documenting domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that occurs in the workplace, an implemented safety procedure, or another adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement in response to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or referral to a victim assistance organization. Employers are required to engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process with the employee to determine effective reasonable accommodations.
If an employer does not comply with these provisions, an employee shall be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer. Additionally, an employer who willfully refuses to rehire, promote, or otherwise restore an employee or former employee who has been determined to be eligible for rehiring or promotion by a grievance procedure or hearing authorized by law is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Employers must maintain confidentiality as to such employees to the extent allowed by law. In the event the employer is permitted by law to disclose information regarding the employee’s status or information about the employee’s situation, the employee must be given notice before any authorized disclosure.
Notice to Employees
Pursuant to California Labor Code § 230.1(h), employers must now also provide notice of these rights to all new employees when they are hired and to any other employees who request the information. The State Labor Commissioner has developed a form that employers may use to comply with the notice requirements, included herewith. Therefore, you should provide a copy of this notice (or a form substantially similar in content and clarity to the attached form) to all new employees and any employees who request it.
What does this Mean for Your Business?
In order to be sure your company is in compliance with these new requirements, you should do the following:
- Update all employee handbooks, policies and agreements to contain information about these new rights
- Develop policies for working with employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking which are in compliance with these new laws
- Provide the included notice (or a form substantially similar in content and clarity to the attached form) to all new employees and any employees who request it
- Keep information regarding employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking confidential to the extent required by law
- Contact us if you have questions regarding any specific employees or situations and if you would like us to draft or review any policies or documents.