Paid leave law gives domestic violence victims chance to recover

Tacoma’s paid leave law, which went into effect last February, can be used for more than just sick time. Paid leave hours can also be used for absences that improve an employee’s safety or wellbeing following incidents of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, the City of Tacoma’s Employment Standards Office is working to increase awareness of the “safe time” uses for paid leave. As part of this effort, it is partnering with the YWCA to share information with social service providers and domestic violence survivors at various community events throughout the month.

“While Washington state law already allows domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking victims to take time off from work to address their safety or wellbeing without fear of retaliation, that leave can often be unpaid,” said Employment Standards Program Manager Melanie Harding. “Tacoma’s paid leave law gives them an opportunity to do that while still bringing home the pay they need to put food on the table.”

Under Tacoma’s paid leave law, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking victims can use paid leave hours to meet with an attorney, make a court appearance, relocate, or seek services like emergency housing or counseling. Paid leave can also be used to assist a close family member that has been victimized, such as a child under the age of 18, a parent, a grandparent, or a spouse with these important safety issues.

“I can’t even count the number of times over the years that I’ve heard clients tell us that they can’t take time off work to look for housing or go to court because they can’t afford it or that they will lose their job,” said YWCA Pierce County Deputy Director Karin White. “Safe and sick leave is an important tool for survivors to utilize at a time when they are most in need of support, and when their safety may be most at risk. Tacoma is really setting a great example of how public policy can do tangible things to help survivors be empowered and safe as they rebuild their lives after abuse.”

Domestic violence impacts one in every four women, and one in every seven men. Learn more about taking time off of work for safety, at You can also call 311 within Tacoma city limits or (253) 591-5000 from anywhere else, and ask to be connected to the City’s Employment Standards Office.

– City of Tacoma