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Legal Insider: States Begin to Offer Employment Rights to Domestic Violence Victims

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Some states are beginning to offer victims of domestic violence employment law rights.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has not done so yet, but this article focuses on the jurisdictions that have enacted such legislation. The most major legislation in this area has come from New York and California. It is hoped that more states (and Virginia) will begin to enact these types of employment law protections for victims of domestic violence.

New York and California Laws Offer Employment Law Protections

The State of New York recently enacted Bill A5618/S1040, which offers employment law protections to victims of domestic violence. The new law enhanced previous New York protections which prohibited discrimination against victims of domestic violence within the workplace. The new law adds the following:

Reasonable Accommodation: The law requires employers to reasonably accommodate victims of domestic violence who must be absent from work for a reasonable amount of time to seek medical attention, therapy or legal services in connection with domestic violence.

Anti-Discrimination: The new law further ensures that domestic violence victims are considered a protected class and that employment discrimination against them is considered another form of illegal discrimination.

The State of California has enacted similar protections for victims of domestic violence. In some ways, the protections given to employees in California are slightly stronger than those in New York. California Labor Code §§ 230 and 230.1 provides employment law protections to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Like in New York, California requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to domestic victims. California also makes it illegal to discriminate or retaliate against a victim of domestic violence for taking time off of work to seek help.

Virginia Lags Behind in Protections

Virginia lags far behind in the protection of domestic violence victims in the workplace. The legislature should move to adopt a law similar to those enacted by California and New York to ensure that employees suffering from domestic violence are not terminated or discriminated against for taking time off to get medical or mental assistance needed in order to get better.

Currently, Virginia only protects victims of domestic violence (and other crimes) for the time taken to respond to a summons or subpoena related to the criminal proceedings. Va. Code § 18.2-465.1. Virginia also requires an employer to permit a victim of a crime to be present at all criminal proceedings related to a crime against the employee. Va. Code 40.1-28.7:2.

Virginia also offers suggested (not binding) guidance to employers asking them to consider allowing victims of all crimes (including domestic violence) to be able to attend court without loss of pay. Va. Code § 19.2-11.01(A)(3)(a). Virginia should follow the lead of New York and California and protect domestic violence victims in the workplace.

Conclusion

If you need assistance with employment law issues, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

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