The following are summaries of new or pending statutes, regulations or other significant policy involving domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and/or stalking that we hope will be useful to practitioners. If you know of legislation that you would like to be included in future newsletters please send them to Rebecca Henry Rebecca.Henry@americanbar.org..
Philadelphia Enacts “Entitlement to Leave Due to Domestic or Sexual Violence” Ordinance, Including Same-Sex Couples
As of January 5, 2009, employers in Philadelphia are required to provide unpaid leave to victims of domestic or sexual violence or their family members. On October 23, 2008, the City Council of Philadelphia passed the, “Entitlement to Leave Due to Domestic or Sexual Violence” Ordinance. This requires Philadelphia employers to provide up to eight weeks unpaid leave for employees who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. The ordinance also requires employers to extend such leave to close family members of victims of domestic or sexual violence, including same-sex partners. This ordinance does not apply to employers with 49 or fewer workers. The ordinance, Bill No. 080468-A, amends Section 9-1103 of the Philadelphia Code.
House Re-introduces SAFE ACT
On January 28, 2009, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act into the House of Representatives. Citing that “crime costs an estimated $450,000,000,000 annually in medical expenses, lost earnings, social service costs, pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life for victims,” the purpose of the Act is “to promote the national interest in ensuring that victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking can recover from and cope with the effects of domestic violence.”
Under the SAFE Act, victims of domestic violence are entitled to unemployment benefits if they are forced to take time off from work in order to obtain medical attention or services as a result of their domestic violence. Victims may take up to thirty days off from work in unpaid leave, The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against potential employees and prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against applicants or insured’s because they are victims of domestic violence. The SAFE Act, H.R. 739, is currently being considered in committee.
California Amends Criminal Code to Allow for Testimony by Video-Conferencing
As of January 1, 2009, the California courts are allowed to examine witnesses via video-conference if the witness is deemed to be too sick or infirmed to testify in person. This Amendment requires that videoconferencing be contemporaneous, two-way, and allow the parties and witnesses to see and hear each other.
This amendment to the criminal code, AB-1158, was enacted in response to Supreme Court Case Crawford v. Washington (541 U.S. 36). Crawford held that out of court statements made to police by an unavailable witness was inadmissible under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This decision creates an obstacle where the victim is elderly or recovering from injuries of assault. This amendment allows witnesses to testify who previously would only be able to give statements to the police.