The full Assembly this week unanimously granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Gabriela Mosquera, Celeste Riley and Daniel Benson that will provide increased protections and financial security for victims of domestic violence.
The bill (A-2919) is known as the “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act” or the “NJ SAFE Act.” The measure would provide 20 days of leave time within one year of an incident of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense of which the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, or civil union or domestic partner was a victim.
“Domestic violence cases can present a huge disruption to a victim’s life,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Pursuing legal justice and getting any necessary medical and mental health treatment all require time and energy that cannot always be accomplished when working full-time. By providing additional leave time, hopefully we can give domestic violence victims increased support to overcome a very trying situation.”
“The process of picking up the pieces after a domestic violence incident or sexual assault is extremely taxing on victims,” added Mosquera. “Without the proper time to address the matter both legally and psychologically, victims may never truly heal.”
The leave time is provided so as to allow the employee to seek medical attention for physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence to the employee or the employee’s family or household member; obtain services from a victim services organization for the employee or the employee’s family or household member; obtain psychological or other counseling for the employee or the employee’s family or household member; participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety of the employee or the employee’s family or household member from future domestic or sexual violence or ensure economic security; seek legal assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee’s family or household member; or to prepare for or attend a criminal or civil court proceeding relating to an incident of domestic or sexual violence of which the individual, or the family or household member of the individual, was a victim.
“Recovering from a domestic violence incident can be a physically and mentally exhausting ordeal,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Protecting a victim’s job and giving them much-needed time to recover is not only the compassionate thing to do, but the right thing to do.”
An employer may, however, require an employee to provide certification or other documentation of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense against the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, or civil union partner also applies to the employee’s domestic partner.
“For the average person, simply trying to juggle every day tasks while working full-time can be challenging,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “For victims of domestic violence, this is all compounded by legal and medical needs, making it all the more necessary for them to have access to the time they need to recover fully and properly.”
An employer may, however, require that an employee exhaust any accrued paid leave provided by the employer, or leave provided pursuant to the “Family Leave Act” before pursuing the leave time permitted under this bill. An employer found in violation of certain provisions of the bill could be liable for a civil penalty of $1,000-2,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.
The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk for action.