Westchester County to Provide New Paid Time Off Under Safe Leave Law

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Many people get time off of work for vacations, being sick, or even if they’re injured. In fact, about 74% of states require businesses to offer workers’ comp to their employees. But a new type of leave is being explored: safe leave. And Westchester County is finally joining New York City in signing a Safe Leave Law.

The safe leave law, officially called the Safe Time Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Law, gives paid time off given to people who are struggling with the trauma of any type of domestic violence. Under the new law, any business in Westchester County that employees more than five people has to provide 40 hours of paid leave each year to any employee in a domestic violence situation.

The bill was sponsored by Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia. She explained that the law focuses on more than just physical violence, saying, “It includes emotional manipulation, financial manipulation, others kinds of abuse.”

This leave is designed to allow employees to take the time they need to seek counseling, attend court dates, and even meet with lawyers. While people who work with an attorney usually settle a claim for three to four times more than those without a lawyer, working with an attorney can take up quite a bit of time.

Under the law, employers give the 40 hours of paid time off to all eligible employees — there isn’t an accrual option, the time must be provided all at once. Employees given the time off must work more than 90 days in Westchester County within a calendar year.

To receive the time off, employees have to provide their employers with a written notice of how the Safe Time Law is applicable and must meet the posting requirements listed. Reasonable documentation may include things like a police report, a court appearance ticket, a note from an attorney, or a statement from an organization or counselor who works with people dealing with domestic violence or human trafficking.

According to Carla Horton, executive director of Hope’s Door, “It sends a message to victims everywhere that they are not alone, that others do care, and that’s worth way, way, way more than 40 hours of pay.”

The law was signed by Westchester Executive George Latimer and was shown unanimous support during the vote. It is expected to go into effect in late October of this year.