Victims of domestic violence have rights in the workplace

Workplace anti-discrimination laws are so numerous and varied that it can be difficult to keep track of who is protected and where. Most people are aware that it is against the law for companies to hire or fire workers based on factors like race, gender or religion, but they may be unaware of additional protections that are discusses less often. For California workers, one often-overlooked employment protection is for victims of domestic violence.

California is one of only a handful of states nationwide that prohibits employment discrimination against victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. The issue gained steam in California after a high-profile incident in which a schoolteacher was fired after her school was put on lockdown in response to a threat by her abusive ex-husband. The fired teacher went on to become a vocal advocate of the reform, which was enacted in 2014.

Under California's domestic violence discrimination law, it is against the law for employers to take adverse employment actions against workers based on their status as victims of domestic violence. This means, for example, that a worker cannot be fired, demoted, suspended, or threatened with termination because he or she is a victim of domestic violence.

Employer must be notified

In order for an employee to receive protection under California's new anti-discrimination law, however, the employer must be aware of the worker's status as a victim of domestic violence. This means that the employer must either have first-hand knowledge of the abuse or must be notified of it by the employee. The law specifically provides that a worker cannot be fired or otherwise subjected to negative employment consequences for missing work in order to serve on a jury, appear in court or seek a restraining order.

In addition, workers are protected from negative employment consequences when an unscheduled absence occurs as a result of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault as long as they provide documentation of the reason for the absence within a reasonable time.

Another requirement set forth in the anti-discrimination law is that employers must take reasonable steps to accommodate the worker's safety as requested by a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. Examples of such accommodations may include transfer, reassignment, change of work telephone number, installation of locks or scheduling changes.

Get legal help if you experience discrimination

If you have been fired or experienced other negative consequences at work because you were experiencing domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault, it is important to understand that you have rights. Contact the employment lawyers at Kastner Kim LLP to discuss your situation and learn about the steps you can take to protect those rights.