Topic of the Week Domestic Violence and the Workplace
This week, in relation to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month,
we're covering domestic violence and the workplace.
Domestic violence -- mental or physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner -- often affects a victims' ability to work. The CDC claims that more than 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and according to Legal Momentum, victims of domestic violence lose an average of 137 hours of work a year due to seeking medical attention, sabotage or the need to stay in a safe place. Learn about your rights when it comes to addressing domestic violence's impact at work here.
1. I am dealing with a domestic violence situation and afraid I will be fired from my job. Do I have any legal protections?
No federal law explicitly protects victims of domestic violence in the workplace or permits them time off to deal with it. However, several states have passed domestic violence leave laws, which give victims the right to take time off work for certain domestic violence-related reasons. Some states allow victims and witnesses of a crime to take time off to attend court proceedings; these laws also apply to victims of domestic violence.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may also provide a right to time off for some workers who are facing domestic violence. FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off every 12 months for their serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a new child (among other things). An employee who is physically injured or develops psychological trauma as a result of domestic violence might be entitled to FMLA leave. An employee might also be able to take time off to care for a parent or child who has been a victim of domestic violence. FMLA leave is unpaid, although employees may use their accrued paid sick or vacation leave while on FMLA leave. The FMLA applies only to employers that have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of each other. FMLA-eligible employees are those who have worked for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours in the past year, for the employer.
2. I was fired because I missed too much work while dealing with an abusive situation. Can I collect unemployment?
You may be able to collect unemployment, but it depends on your state. In general, you are eligible for unemployment insurance if you are fired from your job for a reason unrelated to your work performance. In a few states, like Maine, and New Jersey, if you are fired because you are a victim of domestic violence, you are presumed eligible for unemployment insurance. However, in most states, you will probably be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you are fired for an act of misconduct as defined in your state's unemployment insurance law. For example, if you are fired because you missed several days of work without providing a sufficient excuse or if you have failed to complete your job requirements, even if it is because of domestic or sexual violence, you may not qualify for benefits because of your misconduct. If your missed days were covered in a sick leave policy or you obtained permission to miss work according to company policy, you may be eligible for benefits. Each state has different laws, so it is important to contact the unemployment agency in your state to determine eligibility requirements.
Thought of the Week
"Domestic violence and sexual assault walk in the doors of each and every workplace every day here in the United States. Domestic violence robs our employees of their dignity and their health, and these issues hide in darkness until we bring them into the light."
–Kim Wells, ED of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence
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Did You Know:
- 1 in 4 Women Experience Domestic Violence
- 1 in 10 Men Experience Domestic Violence