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The Need to Leave Work: Your rights as a domestic violence survivor

Produced by Greater Boston Legal Services, revised by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2020

You can collect Unemployment Insurance if:

  • You had to leave your job because of domestic violence, or
  • You were fired due to circumstances resulting from domestic violence

Although you must also show that you are able and available for suitable work, you only need to look for or take work that allows you to address the effects of domestic violence. The effects can be physical, psychological, and legal.

If you are denied benefits, you generally need to appeal the decision within 10 days. If you have good cause for a late appeal you may have 30 days to appeal the decision.

Basic information about Unemployment Insurance (UI)

You have a right to UI if:

  • You are separated from employment through no fault of your own,
  • You have earned at least $3,500 and worked at least 15 weeks in the past 15 months, and
  • You are able and available for work
  • Weekly benefits are approximately 50% of average weekly wages up to $674 for 30 weeks, plus $25 a week per child (capped at 50% of your weekly UI benefit).
  • UI is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment and Assistance (DUA). (617) 626-6800 or 1-877-626-6800.

Job Training: If you enroll in a training program approved by DUA:

  • You receive a job search exemption.
  • You receive 26 additional weeks of UI.
  • You may be able to keep a state subsidized day care slot while waiting for placement in job training. For more information about subsidized day care benefits for recipients of UI, contact Brian Flynn at Greater Boston Legal Services. Brian can be reached at [email protected] or (617) 371-1234.

Health Insurance - Medical Security Plan (MSP): If you are receiving UI benefits you may qualify to receive assistance for health insurance through either the Premium Assistance Plan or the Direct Coverage Plan. Call MSP at (1-800) 908-8801.

Domestic Violence and Court Appearance

It is illegal for your employer to discharge, penalize, or threaten to penalize you if you have to take time off to testify in a criminal action if you are a victim of a crime.

This is not the case if you have to take time off for a civil action.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Other Resources

The Massachusetts Attorney General also provides information on vacations, including information on time off and voting.

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