by Brittany Patterson
California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill in late February to protect victims of domestic violence from losing their jobs or being discriminated against at work as well as providing reasonable safety accommodations in the workplace.
“These poor women have already been victimized tremendously and they shouldn’t further be victimized at their places of employment,” said Sen. Jackson.
Senate Bill 400 would stop employers from firing employees who miss work for court appearances or assistance related to domestic violence victimization as well provide survivors with reasonable accommodations in the workplace to protect them from their abuser.
A 2011 study conducted by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, one of the cosponsors of the bill, found that nearly 40 percent of survivors in California reported either being fired or fearing termination due to domestic violence.
“There have been incidences where the fact that they are the victims has led them to be fired,” Jackson said. “It’s frequently important for an employer to know that there is potential for a problem at work, but often victims are too scared to say anything.”
A 2005 study using data from a national telephone survey of 8,000 women who were victimized reported an average of 7.2 days of work-related lost productivity and 33.9 days in productivity losses associated with household chores, child care, school, volunteer activities, and social or recreational activities.
S.B. 400 is not slated to go through the appropriations committee, which means if passed this legislation would pose no cost to the state, and according to Jackson is not a measure that should be cost any money.
“I’d rather move forward with this bill in a way that just simply encourages employers or makes them aware of what the situation is for many for these victims and victims to speak up to their employers,” said Jackson. “At a time when we’ve seen women suffering as a result of the great recession, losing jobs, seeing their income reduced, it’s important that this not happen as a result circumstances outside of their control.”
Five states – Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Oregon – already have laws that protect victims from discrimination.
Patterson is a student at California-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She wrote this story as part of her coursework for a class called Journalism for Social Change offered at the Goldman School of Public Policy.