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Dec 12, 2022

A new type of paid leave is now available to city workers who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Called “safe leave,” the policy grants 60 hours of paid leave per year for eligible full-time non-union employees. Part-time non-union employees would receive 30 hours. It would also apply to city workers with children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

It is believed to be the first of its kind among local Ohio governments, and council hopes it spurs private employers to begin offering similar leave for their employees.

Paid leave for union employees is governed by collective bargaining agreements, so it’s not part of council’s proposal. But council leaders said they intend to work with the administration in hopes of getting similar leave added to union contracts, and the legislation encourages unions to seek such benefits during contract negotiations.

The benefit is intended to help employees navigate the fallout of violence by granting them time to seek treatment and counseling, relocate, or obtain victim’s services without jeopardizing their jobs. The Paid Safe Leave time taken will not be deducted from other forms of paid leave.

Victims of violence may need to visit doctors, lawyers, finding new housing, dealing with the police and the courts.

Domestic violence reports spiked during the pandemic, and have yet to recede to pre-pandemic levels. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center director has said her organization received a 25% increase in calls in the first part of 2022, compared to 2021. That continuing trend, as the COVID-19 pandemic shifts into a long-term endemic, was part of the reason why council proposed the policy. Council Members Jasmin Santana, Charles Slife, Stephanie Howse and Kerry McCormack sponsored the legislation, which was passed at the last council meeting of 2022.

Statistics show between 20% and 60% of people in an abusive relationship will lose their job because it, often because they can’t focus, miss shifts, or need time off to attend to health problems.

To obtain the leave, city employees would have to submit corroborating documentation to human resources.