Massachusetts: Domestic Violence Protections Given Broad Interpretation


All Employers with MA Employees


August 25, 2021


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In Osborne-Trussell v. The Children’s Hospital Corp., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated that the Domestic Violence and Abuse Leave Act (DVLA) protects more than “current” employees and does not require a specific leave or accommodation request for its statutory protections to be implicated.

There, a nurse had a restraining order against an abuser. The nurse received and accepted a conditional offer of employment from a hospital. The abuser then posted threats and false statements on social media and tagged the hospital. The nurse informed the hospital that she had a protective order in place and was working with law enforcement to enforce it. The hospital subsequently rescinded the offer of employment.

The Court stated that the DVLA was not limited to current employees given that its purpose, in part, was to protect abused individuals from adverse consequences at work. Regardless, the nurse made sufficient allegations that she was in an employment relationship with the hospital even though she had not started her orientation. Additionally, the court said that the nurse was subject to the DVLA’s protections upon giving advance notice of a potential leave request by having a protective order, the abuser’s violation of the order, and her enforcement efforts. Akin to a pregnant individual giving notice of a current pregnancy but not yet needing leave, the nurse did not need to specifically request leave to benefit from the DVLA’s protections.

Action Items

  1. Update procedures for managing DVLA protections.
  2. Have appropriate personnel trained on DVLA requirements.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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