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Do You Need Time Off from Work Due to Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault?


Do You Need Time Off from Work Due to Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault?

Date Posted: 

There are two laws that might help you:

Philly Domestic Violence Ordinance

U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act

Reasons for leave:      

  • Time off to attend court
  • Time off to recuperate from injuries
  • Time off to get counseling
  • Time off to get legal help
  • Time off to plan for your safety


Reasons for leave:

  • Time off to recuperate from “serious health condition” or the serious health condition of an immediate family member.  This includes serious health conditions resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault.

What do you get:

  • 8 weeks unpaid leave (or 4 weeks if small employer)
  • Continuation of health insurance while on leave (if normally provided by job)
  • Return to your job or equivalent at end of leave

What do you get:

  • 12 weeks unpaid leave total
  • Continuation of health insurance while on leave  (if normally provided by job)


  • Return to your job or equivalent at end of leave


  • Applies to employers of any size
  • Must work in Philadelphia
  • Eligible from start of employment
  • Only for victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking, or for their family members
  • Must give 48 hours notice if possible


  • Applies to employers of 50+ employees)
  • May work anywhere
  • Eligible only after working for one year
  • Only for serious health conditions
  • Must give as much notice as possible


I was the victim of a sexual assault and I was seriously injured.  Can I take both types of leave for more time off?

No, you can only get 12 weeks maximum.  You can’t add on another 8 weeks of leave in the same year. 

What is a serious health condition under the FMLA?  An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either (1) inpatient care or (2) continuing treatment by a health care provider.  Spending a night in the hospital, followed by recuperation, qualifies as a serious health condition.  “Continuing treatment by a healthcare provider” can mean being seen in person two times by a doctor, nurse, or other provider within 30 days of the condition.  Continuing treatment by a healthcare provider can also mean one in-person treatment and then a period of time under a treatment plan. 

Can I take leave and still take all of my vacation and sick time after that?  It depends on your employer.  But Employers are allowed to make you use your paid time off while you are out on FMLA leave or Philadelphia Ordinance leave.  So you probably can’t take extra time off to extend your leave longer than what the law provides.

What are the differences between the two laws?

Total weeks of leave:  The Philadelphia Ordinance gives you either 4 or 8 weeks leave from work, depending on how big your employer is (more than 50 employees: 8 weeks.  Less than 50 employees:  4 weeks).  The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you 12 weeks.

Reasons for leave:  The Philadelphia Ordinance is broader.  You can take leave for counseling, for attending a safety plan, for going to court and other reasons.  The FMLA is only for serious health conditions, so it will only apply to you if you were seriously injured by domestic violence or sexual assault. 

Eligibility:  The Philadelphia Ordinance applies even if you just started at your job.  The FMLA is only possible to use after you have been at your job for a year.  During that year you have to work at least 1250 hours, or about 25 hours per week.

Also, the FMLA only applies if your employer has 50+ employees.  The Philadelphia Ordinance applies to all employers (smaller employers with less than 50 employees can give you less time off, just 4 weeks). 

Disclosure:  To take leave under the Philadelphia Ordinance, you have to tell your employer that you were the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.  Even though all information you give must be kept confidential, a lot of people don’t want their employers to know this information.  For the Family Medical Leave Act, you just have to tell your employer about your serious condition, not what caused it. You may want to contact an agency that provides counseling and can help you with safety planning. The agency can help you assess the risks of speaking to your employer and can help provide tips on telling your employer that you were the victim of domestic violence or sexual assualt.

Who should I talk to at my job if I need to take leave under the Philadelphia Ordinance or under the FMLA?  If your employer has a Human Resources Department or Manager, go to that person.  Otherwise go to your boss or supervisor.  They probably already know about the FMLA and about the Philadelphia Ordinance, but you may have to educate them about these laws.  Attached is a sample letter you can use and give to your supervisor or manager and information about the City of Philadelphia ordinance you can share with them.



This project was supported by Grant No  2012-WL-AX-0011 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.  The opinions, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.



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