Associated Industries of Massachusetts today backed a bill that would provide employment leave for victims of domestic violence, but opposed separate measures that would mandate unpaid family leave and make workplace bullying a bonanza for trial lawyers.
The association also supported a proposal that would provide employers who voluntarily provide non-discrimination training an affirmative defense with respect to supervisory and management personnel against claims arising from the Massachusetts anti-bias law.
The domestic violence leave bill represents a hard-won compromise among AIM, representing employers, Jane Doe, Inc. and Senator Cynthia Creem. The measure would be limited in scope to employers with 50 or more employees, and provide up to fifteen days of leave only for qualifying events of domestic violence - provisions regarding long-term leave of up to six months have been dropped from the bill to secure AIM’s support.
“AIM supports allowing employees appropriate time to deal with issues of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault and we look forward to training employers about this important matter,” Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs, told a hearing of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.
The association last year conducted a month-long series of Human Resource Roundtables in partnership with Employers Against Domestic Violence (EADV), focusing on resources, models for prevention, education and outreach for employers and individuals affected by domestic violence and the workplace. The goal of these seminars was to educate employers and individuals about how they can create a more productive workplace that is intolerant of domestic violence and supportive for victims and families.
On the issue of workplace bullying, MacDougall told lawmakers that training, leadership development and good communication between employees and managers are the best ways to minimize abusive behavior.
“(The bill) defines bullying and harassment in vague terms, which would stifle normal workplace coaching and critiques. Further, these vague terms provide a clear avenue for frivolous claims by an employee,” MacDougall said.
Employers have opposed the mandated family leave proposals during several legislative sessions. The association believes that judgments about the benefits provided to employees are best left to the discretion of the employer based on economic circumstances, the size of the company, the nature of the employment relationship with each employee and the competitive environment.
“We agree with the proponents of these measures that Massachusetts’ citizens need to balance the needs of work and family. We do not agree, and do not believe, that these bills are reasonable, manageable, or an affordable approach in addressing those needs, either from an employee or employer perspective,” MacDougall told the Labor and Workforce Development Committee today.
AIM also testified in opposition several comparable work proposals, saying the bills are unnecessary in a state is ranked among the highest in the nation for women economically. Current federal and state laws, in addition to case law, already provide significant safeguards and the comparable work measures would introduce vague terms and add unnecessary complexity to an already complicated arena of labor law.
The anti-discrimination training bill would encourage employers to voluntarily provide education and training to employees on a regular basis regarding state and federal law concerning the prohibition, prevention, and correction of workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation.