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Missouri bill would offer unpaid leave to victims of domestic and sexual violence

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:28 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - New legislation in Missouri would allow domestic and sexual violence victims to take unpaid leave from work.

House Bill 432 offers job and benefit security to those survivors. It allows someone working for an employer with at least 20 employees to take one week of unpaid leave, per year, if they or a family member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.

If the employer has 50 or more employees, that unpaid leave goes up to two weeks.

Domestic violence survivor Janice Thompson says survivors often spend a lot of time healing after the trauma and going through the legal system.

”Having this pass is going to give victims more opportunity to get treatment for themselves, be a part of the process to bringing their abusers or the person who assaulted them to justice,” Thompson says.

Thompson says this legislation is a step in the right direction.

“A week might not be enough, but it’s a start and this is a good place to start,” Thompson says.

The bill outlines several reasons why someone would be eligible to take the leave. Some of those guidelines include getting medical attention, recovering from an injury, obtaining legal help, going for counseling and getting services at places like the Victim Center in Springfield.

The Victim Center’s director of development, Shelly Drymon, says that job security will ease the minds of many survivors.

“One barrier is, ‘Will I have a job if I come back even,’” Drymon says. “Not just those tangible items that people have to take care of, but I hope that this will bring to light what victims have to go through.”

An employee who plans to use the leave has to give 48 hours notice and may have to provide paperwork to the employer showing that the time off is needed. Drymon says educating employers on how to handle this is crucial.

“If a person does not feel comfortable or if their employer or boss does not take it seriously or dismisses it or doesn’t see it as a benefit, victims won’t come forward,” Drymon says. “Victims will once again feel like they are being being pushed aside and not being able to get the help that they need.”

When an employee comes back from leave, they will be given the same or equivalent employment position. The employee cannot lose accrued benefits and employers are required to maintain health coverage for the employee while on leave.

Drymon says if someone needs help on how to talk to their employer about this, to call The Victim Center at 417-863-7273.

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