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Know the Laws: Hawaii

UPDATED October 5, 2016

Workplace Protections

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Hawaii state law provides employment protections for domestic violence victims who need to take time off from work to handle issues related to domestic violence.

Basic Info About the Law

back to topDo I have the right to take time off from my job to deal with domestic violence against me or a family member?

Yes. If you or your minor child is the victim of domestic or sexual violence, you have the right to take unpaid days off from work to deal with matters related to the violence.  If your employer has 50 or more employees, you can take up to 30 unpaid days off from work in a calendar year.  If your employer has less than 50 employees, you can to take up to 5 days off per calendar year.

*H.R.S. § 378-72(a)

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back to topWhat is considered to be "domestic or sexual violence" under the law?

In Hawaii, domestic abuse means physical harm, bodily injury, assault, extreme psychological abuse or malicious property damage between family or household members. It is also the threat of immediate physical harm, bodily injury, or assault.*

Sexual violence includes domestic abuse (see above paragraph), sexual assault, or stalking.**  Sexual assault varies in degrees, but basically occurs when someone forces you to have sexual intercourse against your will.***

Stalking means that someone’s conduct towards you has caused you to suffer emotional distress or fear bodily injury, sexual assault, death to you or someone close to you.**

* H.R.S. § 586-1
** H.R.S. § 378-71
*** See H.R.S. § 707-730 through H.R.S. § 707--33

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back to topI know I can take time off to help my minor child who is being abused. Who is considered a minor under the law?

Minor children include isomeone under eighteen (18) who is your biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter.  It also includes a stepchild or a legal ward.*

* H.R.S. 378-71

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back to topWhat legal or medical actions, specifically, can I use the time off from work to do?

Your employer must let you take off time from work to do any of the following things if they are related to domestic or sexual violence to you or your minor child:
        1. Seek medical attention for or recover from physical or psychological injury caused by the domestic or sexual violence;
        2. Obtain services from a victim services organization;
        3. Obtain psychological or other counseling;
        4. Temporarily or permanently relocate;
        5. Take legal action in a case related to or resulting from the domestic or sexual violence;
        6. Take actions to improve the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of you or your minor child; or
        7. Take actions to improve the safety of people who you associate with or work with.*

* H.R.S. § 378-72(a)

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How the Law Affects Your Salary, Vacation Days, etc.

back to topCan I use the days guaranteed to me under the law instead of using my vacation days or sick days?

No.  Before you can take the 5 to 30 days (depending on how many people are employed by the employer), you will likely have to first use up any vacation days, annual leave, or sick days unless your employer specifically says otherwise.  You can usually use the 5 to30 days granted to you under the law for domestic violence issues when you do not have any more sick/personal days left.*

* H.R.S. §378-73

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back to topDoes my employer have to pay me for the time that I take off to deal with domestic violence issues?

If you are taking the unpaid leave guaranteed to you under the law, your employer does not have to pay you.*

* H.R.S. § 378-72(a)

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What You Must Provide to Your Employer

back to topHow much notice do I have to give my employer if I need to take time off from work to deal with domestic violence?

Generally, you must give your employer reasonable notice that you plan to take time off from work to deal with a situation involving domestic violence to you or your child.*  For example: You find out on a Tuesday that you have to go to court on Friday to testify against your abuser. You should tell your employer on Tuesday, or as soon as possible, that you will need Friday off.

However, this does not apply in all situations.  You do not have to give notice to your employer if it is not possible to do so due to immediate or sudden danger to yourself or your minor child.*

Note: It might be a good idea to ask your employer in writing for the time off to deal with domestic violence issues and to keep a copy of the letter.  This way, if the employer denies you the time off, you have some proof that you asked for it in case you decide to bring legal action against the employer for violating the law.

* H.R.S. § 378-72(f)

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back to topWhat documentation (written proof) do I have to give my employer if I take time off from work for my domestic violence situation?

You only have to give your employer documentation (written proof) of the abuse if your employer requests the documentation.

If you are seeking leave for medical treatment, your employer may request that you provide a certificate from a health care provider estimating the number of days necessary and the approximate start date and end date.  Before you may return to the office after medical leave, an employer may request a medical certificate from your health care provider stating your condition and approving your return to work.*

If you take five days or less for non-medical reasons, your employer may ask for a signed statement that you or your minor child is a victim of domestic or sexual violence and the leave is for one of the reasons listed in What legal or medical actions, specifically, can I use the time off from work to do?

If the leave is more than five days in a calendar year for a non-medical reason, your employer may ask for a signed, written statement from a victim services organization, attorney, advocate, or a medical professional that has provided you or your minor child assistance.  A police or court record about the domestic violence is also sufficient.**

If your employer does require certification of your leave, your absence will not be excused until you provide this documentation with your employer.***  Also, while you are on leave, your employer may require that you check in with him/her at least once a week to confirm that you intend to return to work.****

* H.R.S. § 378-72(c)
** H.R.S. § 378-72(d)
*** H.R.S. § 378-72(e)
**** H.R.S. § 378-72(g)


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What Your Employer Can and Cannot Do

back to topCan my employer harass me or tell other co-workers about my situation if I take time off to deal with domestic violence?

No.  The law requires that your employer keep your domestic violence situation strictly confidential – this includes any documents that you gave to your employer, any statements that you made to him/her, and the fact that you or your child is a victim.*  For example, your employer cannot tell your co-workers, your clients, or other employers that you took time off from work because of a domestic violence issue.  The employer can only discuss your domestic violence situation if you (as the employee) request it or consent to it; it is ordered by a court or administrative agency; or it is required by federal or state law.*

* H.R.S. § 378-72(i)

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back to topI took off from work to deal with my domestic violence issues. Can I be put in a lower position when I return?

No.  When you return to work, your employer cannot fire you or put you in a lower-ranked position because you asked for the time, or took the time off.  Under the law, you must be placed in your original job or in a position of comparable (similar) status and pay.*

* H.R.S. § 378-72(h)

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back to topIf I am subpoenaed (ordered by the court) to testify in a domestic violence case, can my employer fire me? What if I am a witness and not the victim of domestic violence?

If you are subpoenaed by the court to testify in a domestic violence case, your employer cannot fire you.*  If your employer does fire or suspend you for testifying in a domestic violence case, you can sue the employer to get your job back and/ or for lost wages.  However, the legal action must be filed within 90 days from the firing or suspension date. The employer may also be violating criminal law as well.**

* H.R.S. § 378-72(a)(5)
** H.R.S. § 621-10.5

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back to topWhat actions can I take if my employer does not grant me leave?

If you are entitled to unpaid leave under the law described above, and your employer refuses, you can sue your employer in a civil action.  You can ask the court to allow you the protected leave and to order that your employer pay your attorney’s fees for the lawsuit.*

* H.R.S. § 378-72(j)

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