Our first blog in the Job-Protected Leave series addresses Florida law and taking time from work due to domestic or sexual violence.
Florida Statute §741.313 provides for up to three days of job-protected leave every 12 months to employees who need time off to deal with protection from domestic or sexual violence. It covers things like seeing an attorney, getting a restraining order, going to court, appointments with a doctor or therapist, and other items related to protecting yourself or a family member, including looking for a new place to live.
The term “domestic violence” covers a wide range of actions under the law, including assault, battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death by one member or your family to another family member. The same goes for the phrase “sexual violence,” which includes sexual battery, an act of lewd and lascivious conduct, the act of luring or enticing a child, sexual performance by a child or other forcible felony where a sexual act is committed.
Florida Statute §741.313 doesn’t just apply to blood relatives, either. If you have a blended family or a shared household, a “family member” can be a spouse, an ex-wife or ex-husband, a relative by marriage, a child’s biological parent, or someone who lives or lived with you like family in the same home.
To qualify, you need to meet some criteria regarding your current employment. For example, you must work for your employer for at least three months. Also, you don’t qualify if you work for a small business with under 50 employees. On the bright side, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Leave Statute applies to all employers in Florida, private sector as well as public. So even if you work for the state, a county entity or city government, you are covered. But you still have to follow whatever rules your employer has for taking planned time off, like giving sufficient notice unless of course it’s an emergency and there is an immediate danger to the health or safety of you or your family member.
The law doesn’t require your employer to pay you and, unless they say otherwise, you HAVE to use up all your annual leave before you can use the statute to ask for any time off to deal with domestic or sexual violence issues. BUT, if you need the time off, your employer can’t punish you for taking it, they can’t fire you, harass you, or demote you. Also, your employer has to keep your situation CONFIDENTIAL.
If you request leave under Florida Statute §741.313, a smart move would be to make the request in writing, marked CONFIDENTIAL, and keep a copy — just in case. Also, if your employer asks for proof of the sexual or domestic violence, which they can, you are required by law to provide them with that proof. Documents such as a related police report, court order, subpoena, letter from your attorney, or even a doctor’s note that you needed to get medical help or treatment may suffice.
If you or a family member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence and you have questions about whether you are protected by Florida Statute §741.313, you should contact an attorney to determine whether your rights have been violated and if you have a legal claim. If you requested leave and your employer denied or interfered with you taking leave, or in any other way retaliated against you after you exercised your rights under the statute, your employer may be liable for your lost wages and benefits as a result of their violation of the law, including injunctive relief.