Can my employer harass me or tell other co-workers about my situation?
The law requires that your employer keep your domestic or sexual violence situation strictly confidential – this includes any documents that you give to your employer, any statements that you make to him/her, and the fact that you or your child is a victim.1 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 or sexual violence issue. The employer can only discuss your domestic or sexual violence situation if:
- you (as the employee) request it;
- you consent to it;
- it is ordered by a court or administrative agency; or
- it is required by federal or state law.1
1 H.R.S. § 378-72(i)
Can I be moved to a lower position or fired when I return to work after taking time off?
When you return to work, your employer cannot fire you or put you in a lower-ranked position (demote you) because you asked for time off. Under the law, you must be placed in your original job or in a position of similar (comparable) status and pay.1
1 H.R.S. § 378-72(h)
What actions can I take if my employer violates this law?
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.1
Also, there are additional protections for someone who gets a subpoena or summons to testify in a civil or criminal case court case, such as a domestic violence case. The law says that an employer cannot fire you, threaten to fire you, or otherwise coerce you because you testify in court in response to a summons. If your employer fires or suspends you for testifying, you can sue the employer to get your job back, for up to six weeks of lost wages, and for your attorney’s fees if you win the case. However, the legal action must be filed within 90 days from the firing or suspension date. The employer may also be arrested and charged with a “petty misdemeanor” crime as well.2
1 H.R.S. § 378-72(j)
2 H.R.S. § 621-10.5