Victims of violence or other kinds of abuse by a spouse or romantic partner may not realize that they may be entitled to protection against employment discrimination under the law. However, they may be – specifically, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Unfortunately, many employers don’t realize that these laws can be applied to employees and applicants who have been or currently are subjected to domestic violence, including dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Since Title VII forbids treating people differently on the basis of sex, that can include applying gender-based stereotypes to people. One example would be an employer who fires a woman who’s being abused by her husband because they’re afraid that will impact her work. Another example would be an employer who turns down an applicant who has been beaten by his wife (or husband) because they think a man should be able to defend himself.
Unfortunately, sometimes people in positions of authority perceive victims of domestic violence as vulnerable or less likely to assert their rights. They may sexually harass them or not give them raises or promotions they deserve.
Some employers don’t consider domestic violence to be “real” crime. They may deny an employee time off to seek a restraining order or testify in court against their abuser.
Employers may be asked to provide reasonable accommodations in some cases, just as they’re required to for people with physical disabilities. For example, a woman who was abused by her ex-husband, who works in the same building as she does, may ask to work at home or take another position in one of the company’s other locations.
If you believe you’ve suffered discrimination or retaliation in the workplace because you’ve experienced violence, abuse or stalking by a spouse, significant other or even someone who wanted more from a relationship than you did, find out what your legal options are. It’s helpful to talk with an experienced attorney.