You have the right to protect yourself on the job. Violence by an intimate partner can be a serious challenge to 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.
Domestic violence victims have certain types of legal protections in the workplace. You are protected legally from discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and various other wrongs. Both federal and state laws provide protection for victims of crimes in the workplace.
- 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 (FMLA). FMLA gives covered employees unpaid leave when facing a serious medical condition. Learn more about FMLA.
- 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.
- Discrimination - 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. For example, if your 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, your employer may be discriminating against the female employees because of their sex.
Suggested Ways to Protect Yourself at Work
You may 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. Your supervisor may be much more supportive than you think. You are not alone. Below are some suggestions:
- Get a Protective Order.
- If 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.
- 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 somewhere many people walk in and out of all day (e.g., fast food restaurant).
- See if a coworker 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?
If You Are Forced to Quit
You may be eligible to collect unemployment if you have to leave your job because you or your spouse, child, or parent are a victim of domestic violence and leaving the job is linked to the domestic violence. You must demonstrate that you are leaving because of domestic violence. Also, you must reasonably believe that your continued employment could jeopardize you or your spouse, minor child, or parent.
You 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,
- any other non-temporary court order documenting the domestic violence, OR
- a police record documenting recent domestic violence.
There are also confidentiality provisions.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Labor and Employment § 8-105.1, § 8-611(e)(7) , § 8–1001(b)(3)