Executive Summary: A new Missouri law requires covered employers to provide unpaid leave for victims of domestic or sexual abuse and their family members and requires notice of the right to this leave be provided by October 27, 2021.
Missouri's new Victims Safety and Security Act (VESSA) requires employers with 20-49 employees to provide employees with up to one week of unpaid leave in a 12-month period and employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to two weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to allow domestic and sexual abuse victims and their families time off from work for purposes of:
- Seeking medical attention for, or recovering from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence to the employee or the employee's family or household member;
- Obtaining services from a victim services organization for the employee or the employee's family or household member;
- Obtaining psychological or other counseling for the employee or the employee's family or household member;
- Participating in safety planning, temporarily relocating, or taking other action to increase safety for those affected; and
- Seeking legal assistance.
An employer can require certification verifying the need for leave, and the employee may take unpaid leave intermittently or on a reduced schedule, or on a continuous basis. If covered under the employer's group health plan, the employee (and any covered family or household members) must continue to be covered under the health insurance plan to the same degree as coverage existed prior to the leave.
In addition, if an employee who has known limitations resulting from circumstances related to the employee or his/her family or household member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence requests reasonable safety accommodations at work, the employer must grant them. Such accommodations may include, among other things: adjustment to a job structure or work requirement; a transfer, reassignment, or modified schedule; a change in telephone number or seating assignment; installation of a lock; implementation of a safety procedure; or assistance in documenting domestic violence that occurs at the workplace or in work-related settings. The employer may request certification of the need for such accommodations.
Employers must advise current employees of this new law no later than October 27, 2021. The Missouri Department of Labor has developed a poster that should be prominently displayed to meet the notification requirement, or a copy of a newly-developed policy should be provided to employees. Note that all employees hired after October 27, 2021, should be provided with a copy of the Missouri Department of Labor's notice. That notice is available at the Department of Labor's website, https://labor.mo.gov/posters, or by clicking here. Alternatively, a copy of the employer's VESSA policy may be provided to current and new employees beginning work on October 27 or later.
Key Takeaways: Employers should, at minimum, post the required poster issued by the Missouri Department of Labor and include a VESSA policy when employee handbooks are updated. The poster, if not the employer's policy, should be provided to those hired on October 27, 2021, or after. In addition, employers should train supervisors and human resources personnel on the law's new protections.
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