Friday, February 25, 2005

The Return of Crime Victim Leave

For the last several years, I have been working to pass legislation to grant victims of crime guaranteed unpaid leave from work. This would allow victims to meet with law enforcement officials and attend court proceedings without fear of losing their job because they have missed too many days. Under current law, a crime victim has no such legal protection, and should they be fired, their only alternative is to file a civil suit. Obviously, this is not a sensible state of affairs.

House Bill 329 is modeled after a similar law in Arizona. Gov. Janet Napolitano was a champion of this sort of legislation when she served as her state's attorney general. Providing leave for crime victims is both tough and compassionate. It is tough, because it allows prosecutors to do their job, without fear of losing a critical witness due to workplace pressures. It is compassionate, since it allows a victim to pursue justice and achieve some sense of closure, without the shadow of potential unemployment hanging over his or her head.

HB 329 is currently in a Labor subcommittee, where we are making some changes to certain portions of the bill. Thanks to some smart work by legislators of both parties, it appears that we might be able to build bipartisan support for the measure. NH has a solid record of supporting victim rights, and passage of this bill would be a solid addition to that legacy.