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Weekly (2/10/20)

Topic of the Week  Domestic Violence and the Workplace

  • I am dealing with a domestic violence situation and afraid I will be fired from my job. Do I have any legal protections?
  • I was discriminated against at work for being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. What rights do I have?
  • I was fired because I missed too much work while dealing with an abusive situation. Can I collect unemployment?

I am dealing with a domestic violence situation and afraid I will be fired from my job. Do I have any legal protections?

No federal law explicitly protects victims of domestic violence in the workplace or permits them time off to deal with it. However, several states have passed domestic violence leave laws, which give victims the right to take time off work for certain domestic violence-related reasons. Some states allow victims and witnesses of a crime to take time off to attend court proceedings; these laws also apply to victims of domestic violence.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may also provide a right to time off for some workers who are facing domestic violence. FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off every 12 months for their serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a new child (among other things). An employee who is physically injured or develops psychological trauma as a result of domestic violence might be entitled to FMLA leave. An employee might also be able to take time off to care for a parent or child who has been a victim of domestic violence. FMLA leave is unpaid, although employees may use their accrued paid sick or vacation leave while on FMLA leave. The FMLA applies only to employers that have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of each other. FMLA-eligible employees are those who have worked for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours in the past year, for the employer.  

I was discriminated against at work for being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. What rights do I have?

Discrimination that occurs because an individual is, or is perceived to be, a victim of domestic violence includes any negative action against a victim of domestic violence. This type of discrimination can include being fired, harassed, or not hired for a job due to your domestic violence situation. This discrimination may happen when you must take time off work to participate in or prepare for court proceedings related to domestic violence. Discrimination may also result from a disruption, or a threat of disruption, in the workplace by someone who has committed or threatened domestic violence against the employee.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination, you may have rights under sex discrimination laws or wrongful discharge laws. Most employees are employees at will. This means they can be fired for any reason or no reason. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. One exception is that an employer cannot fire a person for a discriminatory reason. Sex discrimination and wrongful discharge laws may be helpful because termination from work due to domestic violence could be a wrongful discharge. Furthermore, discrimination based on domestic violence issues can be within the scope of gender discrimination.

I was fired because I missed too much work while dealing with an abusive situation. Can I collect unemployment?

You may be able to collect unemployment, but it depends on your state. In general, you are eligible for unemployment insurance if you are fired from your job for a reason unrelated to your work performance. In a few states, like Maine, and New Jersey, if you are fired because you are a victim of domestic violence, you are presumed eligible for unemployment insurance. However, in most states, you will probably be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you are fired for an act of misconduct as defined in your state's unemployment insurance law. For example, if you are fired because you missed several days of work without providing a sufficient excuse or if you have failed to complete your job requirements, even if it is because of domestic or sexual violence, you may not qualify for benefits because of your misconduct. If your missed days were covered in a sick leave policy or you obtained permission to miss work according to company policy, you may be eligible for benefits. Each state has different laws, so it is important to contact the unemployment agency in your state to determine eligibility requirements.

Thought of the Week

"In the aftermath of abuse, survivors immediately need physical safety and financial independence from their abusers... Understandably, it becomes incredibly difficult for survivors to secure and retain work after experiencing trauma...Many of the reasons that survivors have for taking time away from work aren’t covered. They are limited to using unpaid leave for medical treatment, to care for their own serious illness, or to care for a sick or injured family member, but cannot use it to seek legal or law enforcement protection from their abuser, to obtain assistance from a victim services provider, or to relocate or take steps to secure their existing home. "

–Alejandra Y. Castillo; CEO of YWCA USA

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from National Domestic Violence Hotline

    Domestic Violence and the Workplace

    • Nearly 33% of women killed in U.S. workplaces between 2003-2008 were killed by a current or former intimate partner.
    • A survey of American employees found that 44% of full-time employed adults personally experienced domestic violence’s effect in their workplaces.
    • More than 70% of United States workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence.

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