Protecting your rights in the workplace.

California Adds Domestic Violence Victims As A Protected Class In Employment Law

Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October and taking effect on January 1, 2014, SB400 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 law also entitles victims to reasonable safety accommodations at the workplace.

CA is the 7th state to enact this type of protection for domestic violence victims. While there are currently laws in place in CA which prohibits employers from terminating, suspending or otherwise disciplining employees who take time off work for domestic violence reasons, SB 400 extends this protection to victims of stalking and sexual assault and makes it unlawful for an employer to fire an employee based solely on his or her status as a domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking victim.

An employer must also make reasonable accommodations for the safety of such employees in the workplace. Reasonable accommodations may include the implementation of safety measures, including a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, changed work telephone, changed work station, installed lock, assistance in documenting domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that occurs in the workplace, an implemented safety procedure, or another adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement in response to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or referral to a victim assistance organization. It is important to note that such accommodation is only required to be made available to known domestic violence and sexual assault victims. The employer is not held liable if the victim does not disclose his or her status as a victim.

The law was first introduced by Carie Charlesworth who was fired when her abusive husband showed up at the school where she was a teacher, endangering the safety of students and faculty. Non-profit support groups, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault co-sponsored the law. Representatives from both organizations say they hope that the bill will help domestic violence and sexual assault victims recover from their trauma without having to worry about their job security.