Paid sick days: Safe days for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

Evaluating Paid Sick Leave: Social, economic and health implications for Seattle

From the report Evaluating Paid Sick Leave
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A few days off work can be critical to the health and safety of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking – and their co-workers. In 2008, the Seattle Police Department recorded 1,914 domestic violence offenses, or just over 5 per day. Women are three times more likely than men to experience domestic violence. An estimated 60,000 to 120,000 adult women in Seattle have experienced domestic violence during their lifetimes.

Economic independence is one of the best predictors of whether a victim will separate from her abuser. However, keeping a job can be difficult for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, who often need time off for court appearances, medical attention, or establishing a safe space away from former abusers or stalkers. A 2009 Department of Justice study found that among stalking victims who had a job, one in eight lost time from work. Nearly half of sexual assault survivors surveyed lost their jobs or were forced to quit in the aftermath of the assaults.

A Washington state law passed in 2008 guarantees that all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking can take either employer-provided paid or unpaid leave from work to take care of legal needs, obtain health care, or seek counseling. Family members of a victim may also take leave to help the victim.

Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation. As is the case with leave for illness and health care, higher-wage individuals are more likely than lower income workers to have access to paid leave they can draw on for safety needs.

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