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Black & Blue Shouldn’t Lead To A Pink Slip

Imagine you are at work and your bubbly colleague, Theresa, has seemingly changed personalities.

A once vivacious office contributor has become quiet, withdrawn and nervous. You notice that Theresa has been coming to work late.  She leaves early twice a week to “avoid traffic.”  At first you notice a bruise on her arm.  Sometimes you do catch her in the ladies room applying make-up to a black eye.

You are reluctant but finally come to terms with the fact that Theresa is the victim of domestic violence. Her work is suffering; her appearance disheveled.  But one day, she does take the time to file a restraining order and seek peace for herself.  All of the sudden, she is fired because the employer is tired of dealing with the tardiness and performance issues that resulted from Theresa being harassed in her home space.

While the state of New York specifically has legislation specifically to protect the job status of those facing domestic violence,  employers nationally need to support employees who exercise their rights to fight sexual harassment at work AND at home.  EEOC guidance on this issue shows there are many ways that an employer can support valued employees.

Employees facing domestic violence should also avail themselves of the EEOC guidance to facilitate a productive discussion with Human Resources.

1. A domestic partner who files for a restraining order from harassment even in the home sector is can be afforded the same protections under Title VII to not face retaliation for exercising his or her civil rights. As 74% of those facing domestic violence do endure harassment from their partners at work as well, employers should update their policies and training to help managers minimize the impact on work and on the employee.

2. Domestic violence can lead to physical, mental and emotional trauma which can have an impact on work performance. Depending on the injury and extent of trauma, a survivor of domestic violence may have the right to access the American with Disabilities statues for accommodations.

3. FMLA.  If an employer is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, employees may also have the right to access intermittent FMLA for unpaid leave to deal with the unfortunate impact of domestic violence.

Though the EEOC has not officially expanded the protection of Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities act, it does offer caution to employers when working with employees who face domestic violence.  Remember, the cost to defend a complaint to summary judgment is close to $75,000. Therefore, it is not only cost effective to work with an employee instead of firing them and drawing a potential legal action, it provides stability to the community and workforce when such unfortunate occurrences do arise and affect the workplace.

Read more posts by Leah Hollis, Ed.D.. Leah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.