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Legal Information: California

California Workplace Protections

Workplace Protections

California state law provides employment protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Victims can take time off from work, can ask for “reasonable accommodations,” and cannot be discriminated against by their employer.

Basic info about the law

Who is protected under this law?

Under California state law, you may be protected under this law if you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.1

1 Cal.Labor Code § 230(c)

How does this law protect me?

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, sexual assault, or stalking. For example, you may need to take time off it to get a restraining order.1 Your employer is not allowed to fire you, harass you, discriminate or retaliate against you (punish you), for taking this time off.2 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, sexual assault, or stalking;
  • going to domestic violence shelters or programs, or going to a rape crisis center for services due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
  • getting psychological counseling related to domestic violence or sexual assault; or
  • participating in safety planning or taking other actions to increase safety from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.3

Additionally, if you ask for reasonable accommodations, your employer must provide you with them to help ensure your safety while at work.4 Your employer is only required to provide you with reasonable accommodations if you let him/her know that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.5 If you need a new accommodation at any point, you can make that request from your employer. If you no longer need an accommodation, you must let your employer know that.6

1 Cal.Labor Code § 230(g)
2 Cal.Labor Code § 230(c)
3 Cal.Labor Code § 230.1(a)
4 Cal.Labor Code § 230(f)(1)
5 Cal.Labor Code § 230(E)(i)
6 Cal.Labor Code § 230(F)

What are reasonable accommodations? How will an employer decide whether to grant one?

A reasonable accommodation is a change at your workplace that will help to keep you safe while you are at work. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • a transfer;
  • reassignment;
  • change in work schedule;
  • change of work telephone;
  • a different work station;
  • installing a lock;
  • help with documenting domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that happens at work;
  • putting a safety procedure into effect; or
  • another adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement in response to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or referral to a victim assistance organization.1

If you request a reasonable accommodation, your employer is required to participate in an interactive process with you within a reasonable timeframe to decide what reasonable accommodations would provide for your safety.2 Your employer must also consider any emergency circumstances or danger that you are facing when making a decision about reasonable accommodations, but your employer is not required to provide you with an accommodation that would place a significant difficulty or expense (undue hardship) on their business operations.3

1 Cal.Labor Code § 230(f)(2)
2 Cal.Labor Code § 230(f)(4)
3 Cal.Labor Code § 230(f)(5),(6)

What you must provide to your employer

Do I need to provide my employer with any written proof (documentation) if I request a reasonable accommodation?

Your employer can request certain documentation from you when you request a reasonable accommodation. Your employer may request that you provide a written statement signed by you or someone acting on your behalf that certifies that the accommodation you are requesting is allowed under this law.1 Your employer can also request that you provide certification showing that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.2 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; or
  • documentation from a licensed medical professional, domestic violence counselor, counselor 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, sexual assault, or stalking.3

Your employer can also ask you to recertify your status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking every 6 months after the date of your last certification.4 Your employer must keep any verbal or written statement, police or court record, or other documentation that you give him/her to certify your status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking confidential. Your employer must give you notice before disclosing your documentation for any valid reason.5

1 Cal.Labor Code § 230(A)
2 Cal.Labor Code § 230(B)
3 Cal.Labor Code § 230(d)(2)
4 Cal.Labor Code § 230(C)
5 Cal.Labor Code § 230(D)

How much notice do I need to give my employer if I need to take time off from work to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking?

You must tell your employer ahead of time if you need time off from work to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking 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.”1 However, it is wise to tell your employer as early as possible.

If there is an emergency because of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking 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, sexual assault, or stalking.2 For examples of what types of proof you can give, see Do I need to give my employer any documentation (proof in writing) if I take time off from work?

Note: It might be a good idea to ask your employer in writing for the time off to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking 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.

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

Do I need to give my employer any written proof (documentation) if I take time off?

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, sexual assault, or stalking. If the employer asks 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, sexual assault, or stalking.

In this situation, you will have to provide documentation (proof in writing), to show why you took off from work. 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; or
  • documentation from a licensed medical professional, domestic violence counselor, counselor 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, sexual assault, or stalking.1

1 See Cal.Labor Code §§ 230(d)(2); 230.1(b)(2)(A)

What your employer can and cannot do

I am afraid that my employer will harass me or tell other co-workers about my situation. 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 time off, for taking time off, or for asking for reasonable accommodations.1 Also, the law requires your employer to keep your domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking situation 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, sexual assault or stalking. Your employer also cannot talk about or write about (disclose) the reason for your time off. The employer must also keep private any documents that you give him/her that relate to your domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking situation.2

1 Cal.Labor Code §§ 230(c),(e); 230.1(a),(c),(8)
2 Cal.Labor Code §§ 230 (d)(3); 230.1(b)(3)

After 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, sexual assault, or stalking issues.1 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, sexual assault, or stalking 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 issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, then you might want to contact an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination or the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

1 Cal.Labor Code §§ 230(c); 230.1(a)

My employer has done something illegal under this law. What can I do?

Your employer cannot fire you, threaten to fire you, demote you, suspend you, discriminate against you in any other way, or retaliate against you because you:

  • take time off of work to try to get protections to help ensure your safety;
  • are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
  • requested reasonable accommodations.

If your employer does any of the above prohibited actions, you will be entitled to get your job back and be reimbursed for any lost wages or work benefits because of your employer’s actions.1 You are also entitled to seek any other equitable relief you are entitled to2 (such as other money damages in civil court). If your employer refuses to rehire you, promote you, or restore you to your employment after it has been determined that you are eligible for relief through a hearing or grievance procedure, that employer may be guilty of a misdemeanor.3 If your employer has done any prohibited action, you can file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Department of Industrial Relations for up to one year after the violation.4

1 Cal.Labor Code § 230(g)(1)
2 Cal.Labor Code § 230(g)(2)
3 Cal.Labor Code § 230(g)(3)
4 Cal.Labor Code § 230(h)(1)