Massachusetts Domestic Violence Leave Law

Emerson College provides employees job protected leave if they or their family members are victims of domestic violence or abuse. Employees may take up to 15 days of leave per 12 month period to address issues related to domestic violence in accordance with Massachusetts law.  Leave taken pursuant to this policy is unpaid, however, sick leave may be used for the same purposes as domestic violence leave.

Individuals Covered Under the Law

To qualify for domestic violence leave, either the employee or a covered family member must be the victim of abusive behavior. Abusive behavior includes any behavior constituting domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault or kidnapping. Domestic violence is defined under the statute as abuse by a current or former spouse, a person with whom the victim shares a child, a person cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim, a relative, a person with whom the employee or family member has or had a dating relationship. Covered family members include the employee’s spouse, parent, step-parent, child, step-child, sibling, grandparent, and grandchild. In the case of abuse of a family member, the employee is not entitled to leave if he or she is the alleged perpetrator.

The leave must be used to address issues directly related to the abusive behavior. These include seeking medical attention, counseling or victim services. Leave may also be taken to obtain legal assistance, to attend or appear in court proceedings, or to meet with a district attorney or law enforcement personnel.

Notification Procedure

In most cases, employees seeking domestic violence leave must provide advanced notice of the leave and supporting documentation to Human Resources.  However, in emergency situations, where there is a threat of imminent danger to the health or safety of the employee or the covered family member, advanced notice is not required but the employee must notify Human Resources within three (3) working days that the leave was taken and provide supporting documentation. Notification may be provided by the employee, a family member or a professional assisting the employee with addressing the abusive behavior.

Upon return from leave, the employee must be restored to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent position. Further, the law prohibits the College from taking any disciplinary action against the employee for an unscheduled absence, provided that the employee provides supporting documentation within 30 days of the absence. 

NOTE: Public Safety should be notified of harassment, stalking, threats, assault, and sexual assault complaints at (617) 824-8555.

Supporting Documentation

Such documentation must demonstrate that the employee or a family member was the victim of abusive behavior and that the leave was related to that behavior. These requirements may be satisfied by a protective order or other documentation issued by a court, a police report or witness statement provided to the police, documents showing the perpetrator was convicted or admitted to facts sufficient to establish guilt of abusive behavior, medical documentation or a sworn statement from a counselor or other advocate. Emerson College cannot require the employee to produce evidence of an arrest or conviction. All information related to the employee’s leave is kept confidential, unless disclosure is expressly permitted under the statute.

In accordance with Massachusetts law, the College does not discriminate against employees for taking protected leave and unconditionally prohibits discrimination on this basis.


Emerson College supports staff and faculty who have been impacted by sexual assault, stalking, or abusive relationships. The Emerson College Healing and Advocacy Collective offers confidential support; safety planning; and help navigating on-/off-campus options and resources for medical care, counseling, reporting, legal assistance, and accommodations for academics, housing, and work. Please visit for more information or call 617-824-8857.

For additional Massachusetts resources go to Domestic Violence Programs for Survivors or call the Massachusetts Safelink hotline at 877-785-2020.

In addition, as part of its commitment to maintaining a safe environment for employees, the College requires all supervisors to undergo mandatory Domestic Abuse Leave training at their time of hire, and every two years thereafter.