Washington State Amends Its Personal Protection Leave Law

BY MARTI CARDI, VP-PRODUCT COMPLIANCE & GAIL COHEN, DIRECTOR-EMPLOYMENT LAW/COMPLIANCE

We previously blogged about the rise in the number of state laws protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or similar personal crimes.  Such laws typically prohibit employment discrimination against victims and provide leaves of absence for an employee who is a victim or whose family member is a victim.  To read our prior post, please click here.

Washington state’s existing Domestic Violence Leave Law provides these protections, but has recently been amended by House Bill 2661, which enhances the law.  The bill was signed into law by Washington’s governor on March 13, 2018.

The new provision  require employers to make “reasonable safety accommodation(s)” for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or who has family members that are victims, absent undue hardship (defined as significant difficulty or expense).  The term “reasonable safety accommodations” includes such actions as changing the employee’s work phone number, email address, or work station; transfer to an alternate work site; reassignment; implementation of locks or safety procedures; and other adjustments to the workplace or employee’s situation. 

The amendments allow an employer to request verification of the need for a safety accommodation like that which is required to take a leave of absence, namely:

  • that the employee or his or her family member is a victim of domestic violence, stalking or
    sexual assault; and
  • that the safety accommodation the employee is requesting is for the purpose of protecting the
    employee or family member because of victim status.

Such verification can be limited to an employee’s written statement.  The amendment also provides for applicants for employment (and not just employees) to bring a lawsuit to recover actual damages from a prospective employer’s violation of Washington state law.

MATRIX CAN HELP!  Matrix provides leave, disability, and accommodation management services to employers seeking a comprehensive and compliant solution to these complex employer obligations. We monitor the many leave laws being passed around the country and specialize in understanding how they work together. For leave management and accommodation assistance, contact us at ping@matrixcos.com.

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