You have the right to protect yourself on the job. Violence by an intimate partner can be a serious problem in keeping a job. A batterer may harass you at work or follow you on the way to and from the job. You may find yourself missing work due to injuries or the need to go to court.

A victim of domestic violence has certain types of legal protections in the workplace. You are protected legally from discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and various other wrongs. There are both federal and state laws that provide protection for victims of crimes in the workplace.

Many who have been abused consider domestic violence to be a very private issue.  But when it comes to protecting yourself from a batterer, it is important to tell the people who are around you most often that you need help. Talk to someone you trust. You are not alone and remember your supervisor is likely to be much more supportive than you think.

Suggested Ways to Protect Yourself at Work

  • Do you have a protective order? Does it include the workplace?
  • Consider giving a copy of the protective order to the police where your job is located.
  • Develop a Safety Plan.
  • Seek a Protective Order
  • Tell your supervisor that you have a protective order and give him/her a picture of your abuser. Explain that the protective order states that your abuser is not allowed to enter your workplace (if your protective order includes your workplace). This is especially important if you work in a fast food restaurant or any place that many people walk in and out of all day.
  • See if a co-worker or security person can walk you to your car.
  • Get a parking spot close to a door where you exit.
  • Can you have calls from a batterer screened? Maybe transfer the calls to security or your supervisor.
  • If your name is listed on an automated phone directory, talk to your supervisor about taking your name and number off.
  • Talk to your supervisor-Can you relocate your workspace to a more secure area?

Time Off From Work

If you need time off from work to seek medical attention and heal from a serious injury resulting from domestic violence you may be entitled to job-protected leave from work under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives covered employees unpaid leave when facing a serious medical condition. Learn more.

Disability Related to Domestic Violence

You may qualify for protection from discrimination and wrongful termination or a reasonable accommodation in the workplace if you have a disability that was caused by domestic violence. A victim with a disability caused by domestic violence is protected under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.


If an employer treats male employees differently than female employees that employer may be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If an employer allows male employees time off work to attend family court or child support proceedings, but refuses to allow female employees time off work to seek protective orders from their batterers, the employer may be discriminating against the female employees because of their sex.

If You are Forced to Quit

Effective October 1, 2012 a new law went into effect that allows victims of domestic violence to collect unemployment if they have to leave their jobs if they, a spouse, child or parent are a victim of domestic violence and leaving the job is linked to the domestic violence.  The employee must demonstrate that the reason for leaving is because of domestic violence. Also, the employee must reasonably believe the employee’s continued employment could jeopardize the employee or the employee’s spouse, minor child or parent. 

The employee must provide one of the following types of documentation to substantiate the domestic violence:

  • an active or recently issued temporary protective order,
  • a protective order,
  • or any other non-temporary court order documenting the domestic violence,
  • or a police record documenting recent domestic violence.

There are provisions to protect the employee’s confidentiality. Read the Law: MD Code, Labor & Emp. § 8-105.1,§ 8-611(e)(7) , § 8–1001(b)(3)


Edited by Laure Ruth

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Is this legal advice?

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