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Cleveland City Council proposes 'safe leave' for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence

Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana stands at a lectern in front of Cleveland City Hall flanked by council colleagues and others.
Nick Castele
/
Ideastream Public Media
Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, flanked by Cleveland City Council colleagues and advocates for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, speaks to members of the media about council's "safe leave" proposal.

Cleveland City Council wants to offer special paid leave to employees who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Council introduced the “safe leave” proposal Wednesday, with plans for a future hearing on the topic.

The policy would grant 60 hours of paid time off to full-time city workers who have survived sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking, or who are the parents of children who have. Part-time workers would receive 30 hours.

At a news conference announcing the legislation, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center CEO Sondra Miller said survivors need that time.

“Time away from their job for medical appointments, time to navigate court hearings, time to focus on their mental health and recovery,” she said. “Time away from their jobs that many survivors cannot afford to lose.”

If passed, the policy would apply to the city’s non-union workforce. Council is encouraging Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration to negotiate the benefit into union contracts, too.

Workers could use that time to seek medical or psychological help, to meet with attorneys, to receive aid from a victim services organization or to relocate to a safer environment.

Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said she experienced and saw domestic violence as a teenager. Her mother left her job at a factory to get the family away from her stepfather, who also worked there, she said.

“At one point, my mom had to quit her job so that we could leave, sneak out during the morning, so that we could go to a shelter and to get the resources that we needed,” Santana said.

Employees would need to submit documentation in order to claim the time off. That could be a police report or a message from a victim-services organization, attorney, clergy member, medical professional or other professional who has helped the employee.

Council has been talking with the Bibb administration about how to set up the policy — and how to ensure workers can report violence or assaults to the city in confidence, Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife said.

“The last thing that we want to do is create a scenario where we revictimize victims,” he said.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.