Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the Victims’ Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA) into law on August 28, 2021. VESSA requires employers to provide protections, such as leave time from work or other accommodations, to employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence.
An employer may request certification that the employee, family member, or household member is a victim as described under VESSA. This certification can be written documentation from an attorney, clergy member, medical professional, or a victims’ services organization. A police report, court records, or other forms of corroborating evidence can also certify the victim’s qualification under VESSA.
An employee seeking the benefits under VESSA is required to provide certification within a reasonable period after requesting leave from work. Employers cannot take adverse action for unscheduled absences by the employee if, upon the employer’s request, the employee fails to provide the certification within a reasonable time.
Who Does VESSA Apply to?
A Missouri employer of 50 or more employees must provide up to two weeks of unpaid leave for employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or who have a household member who is a victim of such violence. For employers of 20-49 employees, one week of leave from work must be provided. Employers with 19 or fewer employees are not required to provide leave from work.
Purpose of VESSA Leave Time
Under the mandate, all covered employers must notify the employees of their right to unpaid leave under VESSA. To satisfy this requirement, the Missouri Department of Labor has created a poster that satisfies the notice requirement if prominently posted in the workplace.
The unpaid leave from work under VESSA is designed to provide victims of domestic and sexual abuse victims and their families to:
●Obtain medical care, whether physical or psychological, for injuries
●Seek victim services, including counseling
●Relocate, temporarily, or permanently
●Take actions to ensure their safety
●See legal help
Covered employers must also provide reasonable safety accommodations to employees eligible under VESSA. However, an exception exists for the employer if the accommodation creates an undue hardship due to significant difficulty or expense.
Unpaid Leave From Work
An eligible employee may take the unpaid leave irregularly or by implementing a reduced work schedule. Once the leave time has been used, an eligible employee must be returned to the same (or similarly equivalent) position at work. Additionally, if the eligible employee is covered by the employer’s group health plan, the employee and any covered family member’s insurance coverage must remain active during the eligible leave time.
An employer is prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who take advantage of the protections and benefits provided under VESSA.
Employers in Missouri should update their employee handbooks and policies to include VESSA. In addition, all supervisors, managers, and human resources personnel should also receive training on the law.
Contact Missouri Employment Attorneys for Help
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