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California Expands Employee Protections for Crime Victims

Under a new law, California employers may not discriminate or retaliate against employees who take time off to get a restraining order or seek other help for their health, safety, or welfare (or that of their child) as a victim of a crime. And employers must provide them reasonable accommodations for their safety upon request.

These protections used to apply only to victims of stalking, sexual assault, or domestic violence. Now they apply to other crime victims as well.

This is Assembly Bill 2992. It expands the definition of a “victim” to include victims of any crime that caused physical injury; victims of any crime that caused mental injury and a threat of physical injury; or anyone whose immediate family member has died as the direct result of a crime. In each case, it does not matter whether a perpetrator has been arrested or prosecuted.

Larger employers—those with 25 or more employees—have greater responsibility. They specifically may not discriminate or retaliate against victims who take time off to seek medical attention, seek mental-health services, or plan for their safety (by relocating, for example). These rules, too, used to apply only to victims of stalking, sexual assault, or domestic violence but now apply to other victims, as defined above.

In all cases, the employee must still give reasonable advance notice when possible and provide reasonable proof of the crime or abuse. Such proof can include police reports, court orders, documentation from accredited counselors or healthcare providers, or any other documentation that reasonably verifies the crime or abuse. Under the new law, such proof can also include a written statement signed by the employee (or a representative), certifying the basis for the leave. An employer can also request such certification at any time, and it can request a new certification every six months thereafter.

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