You Have the Right to Unpaid Leave Due to Domestic or Sexual Violence

A woman in a green coat and wire framed glasses looks to her left meaningfully

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month of reflection and education is the perfect time to learn more about your right in Philadelphia to take unpaid time from work due to domestic or sexual violence. 

In January 2009 the City of Philadelphia passed an ordinance that entitles all employees in Philadelphia to unpaid leave to address issues related to domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Employees in Philadelphia can use this unpaid time towards obtaining help for themselves, a family member, or a household member. They can use the leave to:

  • Seek medical attention for physical, psychological, or emotional injuries
  • Obtain assistance from organizations that provides social services to domestic or sexual violence victims
  • Seek counseling or therapy
  • Make safety plans, including relocation plans
  • Seek legal assistance
  • Obtain any other help related to their experience of domestic and/or sexual violence

You must provide your employer with a minimum of 48-hour 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 for your leave. For example, your employer may require:

  • A police record
  • A court record
  • A letter from an organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional

The amount of leave you can obtain depends on the size of your employer. You may take up to 8 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period if you work for an employer who employs 50 or more employees. You may take up to 4 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period if you work for an employer who employs fewer than 50 employees. The leave does not need to be consecutive. It can be taken intermittently or as a reduced schedule plan. This leave, when added to any leave you have taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), cannot be more than the 12 weeks in a 12-month period provided under the FMLA.

If you take this leave, your employer is required to continue providing the same health benefits for you and your family or household members on the same terms as if you were not on leave. You must also continue to pay your same share of the cost. When you return from this kind of leave, your employer is required to restore you to your original position OR an equivalent position. Your employer may not reduce your benefits, pay, or any other part of your compensation upon your return.

Importantly, your employer must keep all information related to this leave confidential by law. If your employer denies you your right to this leave, or retaliates against you for taking leave, you should file a formal complaint. A complaint must be made within 300 days of the date that you were denied leave or retaliated against. It may take several months or longer to investigate the complaint.

You can make a formal complaint in-person or by mail at:

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations
601 Walnut St., Suite 300 South
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Visit the resources linked below for more information. Need legal assistance with your experience of domestic violence? Call our Family Law Unit hotline at 215-981-3838 between 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., Monday through Thursday.