Unpaid Leave for Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence Now Required in Missouri

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett

Authored by Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

domestic violenceMissouri employers must now provide unpaid leave and accommodations to employees due to domestic or sexual violence under the Victims’ Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA).

Employers Covered Under VESSA

  • Employers with 1-19 employees are not subject to these requirements.
  • Employers with 20-49 employees are required to provide one week of unpaid leave per year to employees covered under these statutes.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees are likewise required to provide two weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees covered under these statutes.

Employees Eligible for Unpaid Leave or Accommodations under VESSA

VESSA applies to employees of covered employers who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or whose family or household member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence. A family or household member is a spouse, parent, daughter, son, someone related by blood or by marriage, someone who shares a relationship through a son or daughter, and anyone jointly residing in the same household.

Reasonable Accommodations

Employers and public agencies are required to make reasonable safety accommodations to the known limitations resulting from circumstances relating to being a victim of domestic or sexual violence or a family or household member of domestic or sexual violence. Reasonable accommodations include:

  • An adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement,
  • Transfer or reassignment,
  • Modified Schedule,
  • Leave,
  • A changed seating assignment or phone number,
  • Installation of a lock,
  • Implementation of a safety procedure, or
  • Assistance in documenting domestic violence that occurs at work or in work-related settings, in response to actual or threatened domestic violence.

An employer may request from an employee seeking reasonable accommodations a written statement certifying that the reasonable accommodations are for a purpose authorized under VESSA. This statement may come from the employee or an individual acting on their behalf.

Leave Provisions

Under VESSA, the employee does not need to use the leave on consecutive workdays. The employee simply must provide the employer with 48-hour notice of their anticipated use of their leave. In the case of an unscheduled absence, employers may require certification from the employee showing the reason for the unscheduled absence or for a request for leave.

Additionally, employers may require employees to provide certification that the employee or their family or household member is a victim of domestic violence and that they are taking leave for one of the purposes of VESSA. Certification consists of a sworn statement by the employee as well as a police or court record, documentation from a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of clergy, a medical or other professional, or other corroborating evidence.

Employees may request unpaid leave for domestic or sexual violence against themselves or a family or household member to:

  • Seek medical attention for, or recover from, physical or psychological injuries;
  • Obtain victim services from a domestic or sexual violence victim services organization;
  • Obtain psychological or other counseling;
  • Participate in safety planning, including temporary or permanent relocation, or other actions to increase safety from future domestic or sexual violence; and
  • Seek legal assistance or remedies to ensure the victim’s health and safety including participating in civil or criminal legal proceedings related to the violence.

Employees are not entitled to take unpaid leave in excess of the amount of unpaid leave time allowed for under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition, any employee who takes leave must be restored to the position of employment they held before leave, or an equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Covered employers must have notified current employees of their right to leave and to accommodations under VESSA by October 27, 2021.

Additionally, anyone employed by covered employers after October 27, 2021, is to be advised of their rights under the statutes. Employers in Missouri should ensure that their policies and practices comply with VESSA.

Posted by Attorney Katherine M. Flett and Haley E. Gassel. Flett is a member of the litigation team whose primary focus is on assisting clients in insurance defense, business litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy matters. Gassel, law clerk, is a student at Saint Louis University School of Law and is a graduate of Murray State University.

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