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Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave FAQ

What is the Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law?

Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law, officially Entitlement to Leave Due to Domestic and Sexual Violence (Bill No. 090660-A), was enacted by the City of Philadelphia on December 1, 2009. The law requires employers to allow employee to take an unpaid leave of absence from work so that the employee, or someone in the employee’s family or household, can get medical attention, legal assistance, social services, or other help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence.

Are there restrictions on the type of leave I can take?

The law allows you to take an unpaid leave of absence from work so that you, or someone in your family or household, can get medical attention, legal assistance, social services or other help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence. You may take leave to do any of the following for yourself or your household or family member:
  • Seek medical attention for physical or psychological injuries;
  • Obtain help from an organization that provides services to domestic or sexual violence victims;
  • Obtain counseling or therapy;
  • Make safety plans, including possibly relocating to increase safety;
  • Seek legal assistance.
The amount of unpaid leave you can take will depend on the size of your employer and the amount of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you have used. If you work for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, you may be able to take up to 4 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period. If you work for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may be able to take up to 8 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period. The amount of leave you are eligible to receive under the Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law could be reduced by any leave you have taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave, when added to any FMLA leave, cannot be more than the 12 weeks in a 12-month period provided under the FMLA.

How do I request an unpaid leave for domestic violence?

You must provide your employer with at least 48-hours notice of the leave unless it is not practicable for you to do so. Your employer may require you to provide documentation showing the reason that your leave is to help you, or someone in your family or household, deal with domestic or sexual violence. For example, your employer could require you to provide one of the following as documentation:

  • a police record;
  • a court record;
  • a letter from an organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional from whom you or your family or household member has sought help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence itself.

What should I do if my employer denies my request for leave or retaliates against me for taking leave?

It is discrimination for an employer to deny a lawful request for leave under the domestic violence unpaid leave law. If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with our office using our Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent.

Is there a time limit for filing a complaint?

Yes. You must file your complaint within 300 days of the date you were denied leave or retaliated against for taking leave, unless you have a valid legal justification for not filing within this period.

How do I file a complaint?

If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with the PCHR using the PCHR Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent. Your complaint must provide enough detail to inform the Commission and the respondent (the person or company named in your complaint as responsible) of the timing, location and facts of the alleged discrimination. Our staff can help you prepare and file a complaint.

How long does the whole process take?

The time it takes to investigate a complaint can vary greatly, depending on the facts of the case and the size of our workload. It may take several months or even longer to investigate your complaint.

Do I need an attorney to file a complaint?

No. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint or at any point during our investigation. But you have the right to have someone represent you, and an attorney may be helpful, especially if you wish to take your case to court or your case goes to a public hearing before our Commissioners. The person or organization you accuse of discrimination is likely to have an attorney represent them.

We cannot provide you an attorney or serve as your attorney at any point in your discrimination complaint process. Our staff must be neutral during the investigation of your complaint.

How do I request your services?

You can talk with one of our Human Relations Intake Representatives by calling 215-686-4670, sending an email, or faxing your information to 215-686-4684.