On August 28, 2021, Governor Mike Parson of Missouri signed the Victims’ Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA) into law. The new law gives individuals working for employers with 20 or greater employees unpaid leave, job protections and safety accommodations if they or a household member are victims of violence or abuse. The law became effective at its enactment, and covered employers have until October 27, 2021, to notify employees of their rights under VESSA.
VESSA requires covered Missouri employers with at least 20 employees to provide certain rights to employees who experience violence or abuse.
The law defines covered employers as any person or legal entity that employs 20 or greater employees. It defines covered employees as anyone employed, engaged, or hired to perform work or services within Missouri. Key provisions of the law provide employees with unpaid leave, safety accommodations, and job protections. According to VESSA, employees receive unpaid leave based on their employer’s number of employees. Covered employees receive:
- One week of unpaid leave, if the employer has 20-49 employees; and
- Two weeks of unpaid leave if the employer has 50 or greater employees.
Employees may take this unpaid leave intermittently or on a reduced work schedule. VESSA also entitles covered employees to benefits and employment protection. Employees cannot lose any accrued benefits while on leave, and their employer must maintain their healthcare coverage. Additionally, employers must return employees to their same or an equivalent position upon their return from leave. Finally, VESSA requires employers to make reasonable safety accommodations for employees who are (were) violence or abuse victims. This requirement means an employer may need to adjust to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement. The statute gives examples of reasonable safety accommodations.
The above rights and entitlements are available to employees if they, or their family or household member(s), are affected by domestic or sexual violence.
Under VESSA, domestic violence includes abuse or stalking committed by a family or household member. Sexual violence is defined as sexual assault or trafficking for the purposes of exploitation. Based on VESSA’s provisions, the rights and entitlements of statutes are available to a covered employee if they or a family or household member affected by violence need to:
- Seek medical attention or recover from physical or mental injuries caused by the violence to them or their family or household member;
- Obtain services from a victim services organization for the employee or the employee’s family or household member;
- Obtain psychological or other counseling for their or their family or household member;
- Participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety of the employee or the employee’s family or household member from future violence or to ensure economic security; or
- Seek legal assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee’s family and household member, including either preparing for or participating in any legal proceeding related to the violence.
Under the law, a family member means a spouse, parent, son, daughter, or those related by blood or by a present or prior marriage. The definition of a household member is an individual who shares a relationship through a son or daughter and those jointly residing in the same household.
Covered employers have until October 27, 2021, to provide employees notice of VESSA’s employee rights and employer requirements.
The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations created a model notice poster, the Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence Poster. Covered employers must post the notice in common areas where the employer publishes other required employee notices. The posting compliance deadline is October 27, 2021. Employers should consult with their legal counsel to ensure that they are meeting all of their compliance requirements.
EPIC offers this material for general information only. EPIC does not intend this material to be, nor may any person receiving this information construe or rely on this material as, tax or legal advice. The matters addressed in this document and any related discussions or correspondence should be reviewed and discussed with legal counsel prior to acting or relying on these materials.
Compliance Manager – Atlanta, GA