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Metro Council poised to approve paid leave for crime victims

Louisville Metro Council is expected to approve an ordinance Thursday night that would guarantee paid time off for city workers who are victims of traumatic crimes. 

The proposal, authored by District 4 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, would provide seven days of paid leave for an employee to seek physical and mental health treatment, as well as for court appearances or relocation. The time off could extend up to 30 days if a city worker has exhausted accrued leave, like sick days or vacation days. The program would be available to all employees on their first day of work.

In an interview with WFPL News, Chambers Armstrong said the proposal provides city government with a meaningful tool to support victims of crime.

“A lot of times, victims feel like they get lost in the legal process, like there aren’t enough resources or they're just sort of along for the ride,” she said. “So what we wanted to do was think about how we could provide support to those folks who have really been traumatized and experienced difficult things.”

Chambers Armstrong said she originally drafted the ordinance for victims of domestic violence, which has been on the rise since people were encouraged to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal was eventually widened to cover all victims of crime.

One in four adult women and one in seven adult men will experience intimate partner violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An analysis of 18 separate studies found instances of domestic violence increased by 8% during the pandemic. And data from the Louisville Metro Police Department shows a similar increase in domestic violence calls locally. 

Under the proposed ordinance, Louisville Metro could require employees to show documentation that their paid leave is being used for the approved purposes. Employees are also required to give reasonable notice of their time off, if possible. 

In addition to allowing victims to receive needed services, Chambers Armstrong said the paid leave ordinance could also aid police in prosecuting crimes. Chambers Armstrong began her career as an attorney working for the Louisville Legal Aid Society, and she said she’s seen victims not pursue charges or getting an emergency protective order because they can’t afford to miss work.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how onerous the court system can be,” she said. “Those things can take days where you’re just sitting in court, not sure how long you’re going to be there, not sure if and when you’d have to come back.”

Louisville Metro agencies including LMPD, the Office for Women and the Center for Health Equity spoke in support of the ordinance as it moved through the committee process. A representative for the city’s Office of Management and Budget told council members that they expect the paid leave program could be utilized by 25 to 50 employees each year, but will have “little financial impact.”

Gretchen Hunt, who heads Louisville’s Office for Women, said during a recent committee meeting that the policy should actually result in cost savings over the long term, “because you have less absenteeism, you have less days off work, and you’re able to proactively work with employees so they can stay safer, be healthier and perform well.”

Hunt said she also hopes that the proposal can send a “strong message” to local nonprofits and other employers.

“If this ordinance is passed, Metro Government will lead the community in being able to provide paid leave to crime victims,” she said. “There are jurisdictions across the nation that have done this, but it's not the norm everywhere.”

Louisville Metro Council will still need to approve the ordinance at its meeting on Thursday. The proposal will appear on the council’s consent agenda and is expected to pass unanimously. 

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.