Governor Deval Patrick recently signed into law An Act Relative to Domestic Violence (ARDV), a statute that requires covered employers to provide employees with up to 15 days of unpaid leave in the event that the employee or a close family member is a victim of domestic violent or certain other abusive behavior. This new law is effective immediately and applies to all Massachusetts employers with 50 or more employees. Notably, in addition to requiring covered Massachusetts employers to provide this new category of leave, the statute also requires employers to notify employees of their rights and obligations under the ARDV. Accordingly, similar to an employer’s obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act, covered employers should develop a Domestic Violence Leave Policy that is consistent with the statute, distribute it to employees, and ensure that the policy is maintained and made available in the same manner as other company policies, such as in an employee handbook.

Although the new law is named An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, this statute provides leave not only in relation to incidents of domestic violence, but also in connection with other forms of abusive behavior, such as stalking, sexual assault, and kidnapping. If an employee or his/her family member is a victim of abusive behavior, the statute provides the employee with job-protected leave to seek medical attention or counseling, tend to legal issues, or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior.

Additionally, the ARDV explains: (a) the protocol by which an employer can require notice of foreseeable leave and how to manage circumstances where leave is not foreseeable; (b) the permissible types of documentation to substantiate domestic violence leaves; (c) the employer’s obligation to keep confidential leave under the ARDV and remove related documentation from an employee’s personnel file; and (d) how ARDV leave is counted and treated in connection with other types of leave and/or paid time off.

If you have any questions about updating your employee handbook, complying with ARDV, or how ARDV interacts with other leave rights or absences from work, please contact WilmerHale’s Labor and Employment team.