Is a Washington employer prohibited from terminating an at-will employee because she took leave from work to protect herself from domestic violence? Yes, according to last week’s opinion from the Washington Supreme Court in Danny v. Laidlaw Services.
In Danny, the plaintiff sued her former employer in federal court, alleging she was terminated for taking leave from work in order to respond to domestic violence. The federal court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether Washington has a clear public policy that would support Danny’s claim of wrongful discharge. The Washington Supreme Court responded in the affirmative, stating that Washington "has…established a clear mandate of public policy of protecting domestic violence survivors and their families and holding their abusers accountable."
Washington employers take note: if you have an employee who is taking time off from work – perhaps in violation of your attendance policy – to respond to an incident of domestic violence or to testify against an abuser, terminating that employee will be extraordinarily risky. A safer course may be to work with that employee to find a way to allow her or him to get the time off that she or he needs, and then return to work. Need more help on how to work with an employee who is dealing with domestic violence? Check out these resources from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.