There are few things in life that are scarier than being the victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. After going through such a traumatic experience, most people just want to be able to move on and get back to their normal lives as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen as easily as some might hope. Recovering from domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault can be an emotionally trying process. In addition, many victims need to take extra steps to stay safe from their abusers. Both of these things can make it difficult to return to a normal working life.
Lawmakers in California recognized this and passed legislation that gives victims extra protection against workplace discrimination. Starting on January 1, 2014, employers in California will be prohibited from discriminating against workers based on their status as victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. The protections apply equally to both men and women.
Terms of the legislation
Under the terms of the legislation, workers are protected against wrongful termination, demotion and other adverse employment actions taken as a result of their victim status. In addition, the law requires employers to provide reasonable safety accommodations to workers who need to be protected from their abuser or assailant. These accommodations could be as simple as moving a desk or changing a phone number, or as complex as creating a safety plan in case the abuser threatens the workplace.
The law's sponsors say they pursued the legislation after hearing from victims who felt that they had to choose between staying silent and keeping their jobs. In many cases, the income and stability that a secure job provides can make all the difference for someone trying to escape an abusive relationship or otherwise recover from a traumatic life event.
Moreover, lawmakers hope that the added protections will give victims an incentive to report potential safety threats to their employers. Often, proactive reporting can help employers mitigate threats to employee safety before they occur.
In passing this legislation, California became the seventh state to prohibit discrimination against victims of domestic abuse. In addition to these new protections, current state law gives workers in California the ability to take "reasonable" time off in order to seek out counseling, care or other rehabilitative services.
Seeking a lawyer's help
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault, your first priority should be protecting your health and safety. Do not be afraid to talk about what has happened or to ask for help.
If you encounter any problems at work, talk to an experienced California employment law attorney. The attorney will work with you to ensure that your rights are protected in this difficult time.