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New bills would give domestic violence victims sick leave, unemployment benefits

A package of bills to protect victims of domestic violence was introduced to the state House today.

Together, the bills would create a confidentiality program for victims, allow them to get unemployment benefits if they leave their jobs because of abuse, use sick leave to meet with legal and medical professionals, and prohibit landlords from evicting tenants over disruptions that happen because of domestic violence.

Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, the primary sponsor of the package, says she has support from Senate Republicans Tanya Schuitmaker and Judy Emmons. 

Brinks' office sent us the following rundown of the bills: 

1)    Confidentiality program – "This bill would create a confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. The attorney general would oversee the program, which would allow for victims of domestic violence to keep their name, address, telephone number, and any other identifying information related to the victim confidential.  Victims would be given an address (most likely a post office box) by the attorney general that they could use for any mailing purpose. The mail would then be forwarded by the attorney general to the victim. This will shield domestic violence victims from having their addresses found out by their perpetrators."

2)    Sick Leave Utilization Act – "This bill would require any employer that offers sick leave as a fringe benefit to allow the sick leave to be used for the purpose of providing or receiving assistance to address issues arising due to sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking. Often, survivors must miss work to access legal assistance, medical treatment, and counseling. This legislation makes it clear that an employer must allow sick days to be used for this purpose. It also allows sick days to be used in order to help a loved one who has been a victim of one of these horrific crimes."

3)   Extending unemployment benefits to domestic violence victims – "This bill would allow victims of domestic violence to apply for unemployment benefits if one of the following situation applies to the applicant:

  • The applicant is fearful of domestic violence at or en route to or from the individual’s place of employment;
  • The applicant must relocate to another geographical area due to domestic violence;
  • The applicant’s need to leave employment as a condition of receiving services or shelter from an agency; or
  • The applicant’s reasonable belief that termination of employment is necessary for the future safety of the individual because of domestic violence."

5)    Discrimination in renting – "This bill would prevent a landlord from discriminating against victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Currently, there is nothing in Michigan statute to prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant who is dealing with a domestic violence situation."

An additional bill in the package urges colleges to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and address sexual assault. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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