Domestic Violence Employment Protections Bill Heads to Governor

Contact: 
Rachael Langston
415-864-8848
rlangston@las-elc.org
Camille Hayes
916-444-7163
camille@cpedv.org
Lisa Gardiner
916-651-4019
lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov
September 11, 2013

Today, the Legislature approved SB 400, a bill authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to provide employment protections to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  The Assembly passed the bill on September 9, 2013, and today the Senate concurred, both with strong bipartisan support.  SB 400 now heads to Governor Brown, who has until October 13, 2013 to act on the measure.

SB 400 makes it unlawful for an employer to terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee based on his or her known status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  The bill also entitles victims to reasonable safety accommodations at the workplace.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking have a harmful effect on the ability of victims to maintain employment, jeopardizing a victim’s safety and stable source of income. According to a recent study conducted by Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center’s Project SURVIVE, nearly 40% of survivors were fired or feared termination due to domestic violence.   

“The most common reason that victims choose to stay in, or return to, violent relationships is economic insecurity,” said Kathy Moore, Interim Executive Director for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “It’s imperative that survivors have job security, so they can get themselves out of danger without fear that they’ll be penalized if they reveal their status as domestic violence victims. SB 400 is a crucial safeguard for these vulnerable workers.”

While California law allows survivors to take job-protected time off work to obtain court relief or other assistance related to abuse, it does not expressly bar employers from firing employees just for being victims.  Nor does it specifically require employers to provide safety accommodations to those experiencing abuse. 

LAS-ELC hears from many survivors who are struggling to maintain their employment while keeping themselves and their families safe. A recent caller was fired from her job of 14 years after disclosing to her boss that she was a victim of domestic violence.  Another caller’s manager fired her because she had explained that she was legally changing her name as part of her effort to escape her abuser.

LAS-ELC Staff Attorney Rachael Langston said, “Without the means to support themselves and their children, survivors often feel they have no choice but to remain in a violent relationship.” 

Langston added, “We are thrilled that SB 400 is one step closer to becoming law, and are heartened by the Legislature’s recognition of how vital this bill is to the safety and economic security of survivors.”

“I strongly believe that an unknown threat to a workplace is much more dangerous than a known threat,” Senator Jackson said. “With information, employees and employers can work together to make a victim safer, their co-workers safer, and the entire workplace safer.”

Six states – Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island, as well as Puerto Rico – already have laws that protect victims from discrimination and several of these laws also provide for safety-related accommodations. 

SB 400 is cosponsored by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including women’s, labor and civil rights groups, law enforcement, and employers such as Williams-Sonoma, Inc.   The bill has no opposition.

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About the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center   |   www.las-elc.org 
Founded in 1916, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of working poor people by providing free legal services, education, and advocacy.  LAS-ELC’s Project SURVIVE works to ensure that people who experience domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking can maintain their economic security while obtaining safety, medical, or legal help.

About the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence   |   www.cpedv.org 
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence is California’s statewide domestic violence coalition, with organizational and individual members across the state. The Partnership believes that by sharing expertise, advocates and legislators can end domestic violence. Every day we inspire, inform and connect all those concerned with this issue, because together we’re stronger.