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 May 2022

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, or 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 $5,700 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 $974
  • for up to 26 to 30 weeks, depending on your earnings and the number of people in Massachusetts who are unemployed,
  • 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 get a job search exemption. And
  • You get up to 26 additional weeks of UI.

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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