Philadelphia Strengthens Workplace Protections for Domestic Violence Victims

By Barbara Rittinger Rigo, Stephanie Mills-Gallan and Sebastian Chilco © Littler Mendelson May 19, 2021

On May 11, Philadelphia enacted amendments that immediately strengthen workplace protections for victims of domestic violence. Specifically, File No. 210249 adds "coercive control" to the definition of "domestic abuse" under the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance—the citywide sick and safe time ordinance—and to the definition of "domestic violence" under the Entitlement to Leave due to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking Ordinance—the city's unpaid safe time leave ordinance. 

Under both laws, "coercive control" will mean a pattern of threatening, humiliating or intimidating actions toward an individual used to punish or frighten the individual, including but not limited to a pattern of behavior that, in effect, takes away the individual's liberty; freedom; or sense of self, safety or bodily integrity, including, but not limited to, a pattern of one or more of the following actions:

  • Isolating the victim from support networks.
  • Controlling the victim's economic and other resources, such as transportation.
  • Closely monitoring the victim's activities, communications or movements.
  • Repetitively degrading and demeaning the victim.
  • Threatening to kill or harm the victim or the victim's children or relatives or pets or to take steps to separate the victim from the victim's children and or pets.
  • Threatening to publish or publishing sexualized, false, or embarrassing information, videos, photographs, or other depictions of the victim.
  • Damaging or taking the victim's property or possessions.
  • Displaying or referring to weapons as a means to intimidate or threaten.
  • Forcing the victim to engage in unlawful activity.

Both ordinances allow employees to take job-protected leave for specified reasons if they or a family member (or, under the unpaid safe time leave ordinance, a household member) is a victim of domestic violence. The amount of leave and pay status varies based on type of leave and on employer size.

Under the sick and safe time ordinance, employers with 10 or more covered employees must provide paid leave, whereas those with nine or fewer covered employees must provide unpaid leave. All employers, however, can cap annual leave use at 40 hours.

Under the unpaid safe time leave ordinance, employers with 50 or more employees on each working day during 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year must allow employees to use eight workweeks of leave during a 12-month period, whereas those with 49 or fewer employees on each day during 33 or more calendar workweeks must allow up to four workweeks of leave. None of the time must be paid.

Note that the sick and safe time ordinance, enacted years after the unpaid safe time leave ordinance, provides that leaves can run consecutively rather than concurrently. In other words, after exhausting sick and safe time, employees may take additional leave under the unpaid safe time leave ordinance.

Barbara Rittinger Rigo is an attorney with Littler Mendelson in Philadelphia. Stephanie Mills-Gallan is an attorney with Littler Mendelson in Milwaukee. Sebastian Chilco is an attorney with Littler Mendelson in San Francisco. © 2021 Littler Mendelson. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 



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