Legislation signed into law on May 3 by Westchester County Executive George Latimer requires businesses located in the county which have five or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave to employees who are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.
Known as the ‘Safe Leave’ For Domestic Violence Victims law, it is designed to help ensure that victims will be able to attend court proceedings, including taking the stand to testify in cases related to their situations. The paid time off also can be used to move out of an abuser’s residence or meet with lawyers as well as other advisers.
Employers are allowed to require the employee to submit reasonable documentation showing that the time off has been used only for purposes defined in the law.
“This is a major step forward for people who are victims of domestic violence to be able to get the support that they need in order to be able to deal with that victimization,” Latimer said, “and to know they won’t be necessarily sacrificing their employment in the process of doing that.”
The new law goes into effect July 10.
“When someone has chaos or violence in their home, that comes into the workplace,” said Legislator Catherine Borgia, who was the bill’s main sponsor. Borgia represents District 9, which covers Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor and Peekskill.
“It impacts productivity, it impacts people’s health, it impacts the safety and welfare not only of the affected employee but the other employees,” she said. “We know workplace violence often stems from a domestic situation, so it’s really important for us to take a stand.”
Borgia credited the business community, including individual members of the Business Council of Westchester, with providing assistance “in drafting the legislation in a way that we thought made a lot of sense.”
Business Council President and CEO Marsha Gordon said the organization will help get the word out about the new law.
“While we didn’t particularly survey our members on this particular issue,” she said, “we feel very comfortable with knowing our members and knowing that it’s not all about the bottom line. It’s really about caring for employees and doing the right thing.”
The legislation was unanimously passed by the County Board of Legislators. During the signing event held at the County Office Building in White Plains, Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin also credited the Business Council and the business community at large for being instrumental in drafting and passing the law.
Communications Workers of America Local 1103 and the Community Labor Coalition also worked to push the law, according to its secretary and treasurer Joe Mayhew.
“I know some will say that government should not meddle in the works of business,” Mayhew said, “but we at the Community Labor Coalition say, ‘You know sometimes employers need a little push to get in the right direction, so if employers are not providing, then good government must act.’”