Here's a cautionary tale for employers from the Left Coast, and specifically the great State of Washington. The question is whether this tale has value for New Jersey businesses.
In Danny v. Laidlaw Transit Services, Inc. the Supreme Court of Washington was asked to clarify this unsettled point of law: "Has the State of Washington established a clear mandate of public policy of protecting domestic violence survivors and their families and holding their abusers accountable?"
A thorough review of Washington's statutes and regulations led to an affirmative answer — there is such a policy. As a result, Laidlaw's termination of Danny's employment may have been unlawful.
I am unaware of any New Jersey precedent that has dealt with this question. However, New Jersey too has a comprehensive statutory and regulatory scheme to address domestic violence. It is hard to imagine a NJ court, if presented with the same issue as the Washington court, coming to a different conclusion.
The Danny scenario underscores the difficulties that confront employers when dealing with requests for employee leave. Leave requests can disrupt the smooth flow of business, especially in small businesses that lack the staff to take up the slack when someone leaves unexpectedly. Employers must learn to evaluate leave requests carefully, and to consider more than just the needs of their business. More and more the courts are requiring employers to accommodate the needs of their employees, as Danny illustrates.