Women make up just under half of the U.S. labor force (46.8% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Thus, ensuring that women are safe, healthy, and productive is imperative to your business and the country’s economic growth.
Yet, every 9 seconds, a women in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted. A greater proportion of women are victims of domestic violence but men suffer from domestic violence as well. In fact, in 1 year, more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).
In an effort to protect victims of domestic violence the California legislature have enacted laws to protect employees who are victims of domestic violence.
Do You Know Your Legal Obligations to Your Employees?
All employers are prohibited from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee:
- Who takes time off to appear in court pursuant to a subpoena or court order. (Lab. Code § 230)
- Because of the employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the employer has notice of the status.
- Who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and must take time off from work to seek relief such as going to court to get a temporary restraining order or other relief to ensure the employee’s health, safety, and welfare, as well as those of the employee’s children.
- An employee should give reasonable advanced notice of the intention to take time off;
- However, an employer may not take any action against an employee for unscheduled absences if the employee provides proper certification to the employer within a reasonable amount of time.
- Who requests a reasonable accommodation to ensure their safety at work.
Confidentiality: Employers have a duty to maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting leave as a result of being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Unless it is an undue hardship upon business operations, employers must engage in a timely, good faith interactive process, and provide reasonable accommodations for employees who request an accommodation for the safety of the victim while at work.
Examples of reasonable accommodations: 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.
Employers with 25 or More Employees
In addition to the above, California Labor Code § 230.1 prohibits employers with 25 or more employees from discharging, discrimination, or retaliating against an employee who takes time off work to do the following:
- Seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center.
- Obtain psychological counseling related to an experience of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- Participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including temporary or permanent relocation.
Employers who violate the above provisions may be liable to the employee for lost wages and lost work benefits. Additionally, an employer may be guilty of a misdemeanor if it engages in certain willful conduct.
PRACTICAL TIP: If you receive notice that an employee (male or female) is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or even stalking, work closely with the employee to determine what type of accommodation the employee needs. This is an area where a bright line rule regarding attendance and time off may result in discrimination claims rather than protect you.
Contact me at (949) 529-0007 if you need assistance navigating California’s complicated employment laws.
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