Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence and Churches, Marriage, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches

Domestic Violence: A Call to Pastors – Documentation to Help Domestic Violence Victims

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

My day-to-day job requires that I understand federal and state leave of absence laws. More and more, I am seeing states provide job protection or paid leave to domestic violence victims. I am thrilled about this because the number one question posed to me when I am with a victim is, “What do I do about work?”

Victims have a right to be concerned about work. Not only is it uncomfortable to talk to managers about why you need time off work, but research shows that domestic violence can contribute to a victim’s ability to maintain a job. A victim’s main source of income could be compromised by court appointments, doctor’s visits, counseling appointments, or relocating to a safer home. There may be safety issues at work that need to be taken into account such as the perpetrator knowing the victim’s work schedule, work location, or harassing other employees.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may provide up to 12 weeks of job protection every 12 months to eligible employees who experience domestic violence to address personal medical issues or medical issues for qualified family members. FMLA eligibility is based upon the size of the company and if an employee has worked at least one year and 1,250 hours in the past year for the employer.

In addition to federal job protection, some states provide different levels of job protection. While reviewing Oregon’s job protection laws for domestic violence victims I found among the list of acceptable documents that victims can provide to employers is a letter from a clergy member. How cool is that?! This is one practical way that a pastor can help a domestic violence victim – by providing a letter stating that she is needing time off work or a safety accommodation to deal with domestic violence-related issues. This got me wondering how many other states allow clergy members to provide acceptable documentation for domestic violence leave.

Hang in with me here, there’s a lot of detailed information…. As of October 2019, the following states allow pastors to provide documentation for victims to request work leave or accommodations:

Arizona: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Hawaii: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Illinois: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Massachusetts: A signed, sworn statement by a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Missouri: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
New Jersey: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Oregon: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.
Washington: A letter from a member of the clergy stating the employee is a victim of domestic violence meets the documentation requirement.

There are other states that have various domestic violence laws regarding hiring, termination, time off, type of pay available, job protection, or reasonable accommodations: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Pastors, I urge you to learn more and understand the implications of domestic violence on victims and family members. Please have a plan of action to support victims of domestic violence. If asked, and your state allows, one very tangible way you can support a victim is by providing a letter documenting the victim’s need for leave or reasonable accommodation to address issues related to domestic violence.

Other resources on the blog:
Domestic Violence: Education is the Key to Better Church Response
Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church – Reevaluate Your Beliefs
Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church for Action
Domestic Violence: Know Your Resources

***Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert and laws are always changing. This information is meant for educational purposes. Please consult individual state leave laws or an attorney for any clarification on work related rights for victims of a crime, domestic violence, stalking, or harassment.

7 thoughts on “Domestic Violence: A Call to Pastors – Documentation to Help Domestic Violence Victims”

  1. This is good information. Of course, it assumes the pastor will believe the victim instead of her abuser. You can’t fix a problem if you won’t acknowledge the problem exists.

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  2. I didn’t know about it either, Doug. The thanks goes to Kathi – she found the information and spent a long time looking up the information for all of the states and compiling it in this post. She’s amazing! 🙂

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  3. Unfortunately, this goes head-to-head against the Biblical Manhood(TM) of a lot of pastors who are themselves abusers, de facto accessories/accomplices to Biblically Male(TM) abusers, or just “WOMAN! SUBMIT! (and stay Biblically Sweet(TM) and Winsome(TM)!)”

    As well as a perfect setup to play the “Laws of men or WORD! OF! GAWD!” card off the bottom of the deck.

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  4. Whether or not a pastor believes a victim of domestic violence and wants to help her get out of any abusive relationship is a whole different story. I wish those in religious authority would see beyond gender roles and religious norms about marriage and truly try to understood the power and control dynamics behind abuse.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. @Kathy:

    I wish those in religious authority would see beyond gender roles and religious norms about marriage and truly try to understood the power and control dynamics behind abuse.

    That might hit too close to home.

    Much safer to denounce the Pelvic Issues of those Heathens over there.

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