A bill that would prevent victims of domestic abuse from losing their jobs due to the actions of their abusers has been voted out of committee, and is advancing through the California legislature. It would also protect victims of sexual assault and stalking. Further, a provision in the bill would mandate employers to take reasonable safety measures for an employee to protect them in the workplace.
The Judiciary Committee voted 6 to 1 in favor of the bill, which now moves to the Appropriations Committee. Before their vote, they heard testimony from a San Diego teacher who was fired after her husband showed up outside her school, causing it to be put on lockdown. As the teacher noted in her testimony, victims of abuse are often afraid to tell anyone in the workplace about their situation or ask for help because they fear losing their job, and with it, the financial independence often necessary to get themselves and their children out of the home.
Domestic abuse often follows victims into the workplace. Almost 75 percent of abused women have reported being followed to work or harassed there by their abusers. That is why the bill includes the requirement for reasonable accommodations to protect employees from their abusers or stalkers at work. These accommodations could be as simple as moving their desk or changing their work phone number, or something more complex, such as implementing a workplace safety plan.
California is far from the only state without these employment protections. Only six states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have laws protecting employees from being fired because they are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Just two of those (Hawaii and Illinois) require employers to make reasonable accommodations to protect these employees. New York City and neighboring Westchester County do as well, but the mandate is not state-wide in New York.
On the federal level, the Security and Financial Empowerment Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in March, would bar employers from discriminating against domestic. It has not yet been referred to committee.
Even though there is currently no California law prohibiting an employer from terminating someone who is a victim of abuse, anyone who believes they have been wrongfully terminated for any reason should seek legal advice. It is best to go to an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination cases and who knows the employment laws of California.
ThinkProgress.org, "California Advances Bill To Protect Domestic Violence Victims From Employment Discrimination" Bryce Covert, Jun. 28, 2013