(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester) to allow victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse to take leave time from work to deal with the consequences of the abuse and get help was signed into law this week.
“Overcoming an abusive situation is difficult enough. Victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse should not have to decide between getting help and putting their jobs at risk by taking time off,” said Moriarty. “This law will allow victims of domestic and sexual abuse to take leave time from work to get the help and assistance they need without fear of how it might affect their employment.”
The new law (A-2919) is known as the “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act,” or the “NJ SAFE Act,” and will 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.
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.
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.
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.
“It is often difficult for these victims to come forward or escape their abusers. When they do, they still must deal with the lingering effects of the abuse,” said Moriarty. “Anything we can do to make it easier for those caught in these terrible situations to get help is the right thing to do.”