|Partnership staff with Sen. Jackson and Carie Charlesworth at the SB 400 press conference|
When Carie Charlesworth was fired from her teaching job at Holy Trinity School for being a victim of domestic violence, the nation expressed shock that being victimized at home could jeopardize your employment. Most domestic violence advocates know that it is not uncommon for victims to lose their jobs or places of residence due to the misperceptions surrounding domestic violence. An employer or landlord may think that he or she is doing the other employees or tenants a favor by evicting or firing a victim believing that this is the best means to protect all those involved. However, such actions leave survivors economically disadvantaged, and less likely to disclose their victimization and ask for help.
The number one reason survivors choose to remain with their abusers (or sometimes choose to return to them) is financial insecurity. Domestic violence extends beyond the physical, and for many victims their abusers may have taken control of their finances in an effort to maintain power in the relationship. This can include anything from taking paychecks and assuming the victim’s financial identity, to controlling access to bank accounts to intentionally sabotaging employment. For these reasons, it is essential that victims have the tools and protections at their disposal to maintain economic security.
We at the Partnership understand that victims must be financially stable in order to get out of dangerous relationships – and stay out long-term. This year, we teamed up with the Employment Law Center, CALCASA and Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson to co-sponsor a bill (SB 400) that will prevent employers from terminating victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking based on their status as victims while also requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations at the workplace. These accommodations include doing things like moving the victim to the back of the office if s/he feels too threatened to sit by the front door or removing her name from the organization’s public directory. While this legislation is still pending, there are plenty of things an employer can do now to make sure a victim is protected and feels comfortable:
- Be sensitive to the victim’s need for confidentiality
- Ensure copies of restraining orders are kept onsite (in case the abuser shows up at the victim’s place of employment)
- Ask the victim for a photograph of the abuser so security and reception staff are aware of potential danger
- Ask the victim to keep and print out all abusive texts, emails or phone calls (may be used in court)
- Request any coworkers threatened by the abuser notify Human Resources and the police
- Encouraging the victim to keep an “escape bag,” extra set of keys and important paperwork at the office*
*This list of recommendations came from Aware, Assist, Act: A Guide to Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace, created by The Shelter Naples. Download the full guide.