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Know the Laws: California

UPDATED January 2, 2017

Workplace Protections

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California 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 protect myself or my children from domestic violence or sexual assault?

Yes.  Under California state law, your employer must allow you to use your vacation days, personal leave days, or compensatory time so that you can take actions to protect the health or safety of you or your children from domestic violence or sexual assault (by getting a restraining order, for example).*  Your employer is not allowed to fire you, harass you, discriminate or retaliate against you (punish you), for taking time off to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault issues against you or your children.**  This law applies to companies of any size with any number of employees.

If your employer has 25 or more employees, there are additional things that you are allowed to take time off for (in addition to getting a restraining order), such as:

  • Seeking medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence or sexual assault;
  • Going to domestic violence shelters or programs, or going to a rape crisis center for services due to domestic violence or sexual assault;
  • Getting psychological counseling related to domestic violence or sexual assault; or
  • Participating in safety planning and taking other actions to increase safety from domestic violence or sexual assault.***
* Ann.Cal.Labor Code § 230(g)
** Ann.Cal.Labor Code § 230(c)
*** Ann.Cal.Labor Code § 230.1(a)

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What you must provide to your employer

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

You must tell your employer ahead of time if you need time off from work to deal with domestic violence against you or your children unless it is impossible to do so. California law does not say exactly how many days in advance you need to tell your employer – just that you must give “reasonable advance notice.”*  However, it is wise to tell your employer as early as possible, if you know that you will need a certain day or days off to go to court, to see a doctor, or to take time off to prevent domestic violence or sexual assault.

If there is an emergency because of domestic violence or sexual assault and you cannot give advance notice, your employer cannot fire you or punish you for taking an “unscheduled absence” (sudden time off from work).  However, within a reasonable amount of time after your absence, you have to give your employer proof that that you were absent because of domestic violence or sexual assault.**  For examples of what types of proof you can give, see Do I need to give my employer any documentation (any proof in writing), if I take time off from work for my domestic violence situation?

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.

* Ann.Cal.Labor Code § 230.1(b)(1) & 230(d)(1)
** Ann.Cal.Labor Code §§ 230.1(b)(2) & 230(d)(2)

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back to topDo I need to give my employer any documentation (proof in writing) if I take time off for my domestic violence situation?

The answer depends upon whether or not you told your employer in advance that you were taking off from work.  Here are two examples:

(Example 1) I told my employer ahead of time that I would need off from work next week, to move to a safe place away from the abuser.

You may not have to provide documentation (proof in writing), that you took off from work to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault.  If they ask for documentation, see the list of documents that you can provide below.

(Example 2) I had to take off for two days without telling my employer ahead of time, because of an emergency involving domestic violence or sexual assault.

In this situation, you will have to provide documentation (proof in writing), to show that you took off from work to deal with domestic violence.  If asked for documentation, here are some of the types of documents that you can give your employer:

  • A police report showing that you were a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • A court order protecting or separating you from the abuser or other evidence from the court or prosecuting attorney that you appeared in court.
  • Documentation from a medical professional, domestic violence advocate or advocate for victims of sexual assault, health care provider, or counselor that you were undergoing treatment for physical or mental injuries or abuse due to domestic violence or sexual assault.*
* See Ann.Cal.Labor Code §§ 230(d)(2); 230.1(B)(2)(A)

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What your employer can and cannot do

back to topI am afraid that my employer will harass me or tell other co-workers about my situation if I take time off to deal with domestic violence. Is this legal?

No.  Your employer cannot fire you, threaten to fire you, harass you, put you at a lower-ranked position, suspend you, or punish you in any way for asking for this time off or for taking this time off.*  Also, the law requires your employer to keep your domestic violence or sexual violence situation private (confidential).  For example, your employer cannot tell your co-workers, your clients, or other employers that you took time off to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault.  Your employer also cannot disclose (talk about or write about) the reason for your time off.  They must also keep private any documents that you give them that relate to your domestic violence or sexual assault situation.**

* Ann.Cal.Labor Code §§ 230(c) & (e) & 230.1(a) & (c)
** Ann.Cal.Labor Code §§ 230 (d)(3) & 230.1(b)(3)

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back to topAfter taking time off from work under this law, I was one of many people laid off by my employer. Is this legal?

The law says that your employer cannot fire you or punish you, because you took off time from work to address your domestic violence issues.*  However, your employer can still fire you or punish you for other valid reasons (such as budget cuts, not doing your job well, or reasons that have nothing to do with your domestic violence situation).

Note: Sometimes, an employer will offer a “fake” reason for firing someone, to hide the real reason.  If you have facts or evidence that (1) your employer is not being truthful about why they fired you, and (2) that the real reason they fired you was because you took off time for domestic violence related issues, then you might want to contact an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination or the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission

* Ann.Cal.Labor Code § 230(c) & 230.1(a)

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