California Bill Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Workplace Discrimination Advances in State Assembly

The California State Assembly’s Committee on Judiciary last week passed a measure that would provide employment protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The Senate Bill 400 was already referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee after a 6-1 vote last June 25.


The proposed bill, which is sponsored by Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would require employers to make “reasonable efforts” to provide protection to victims from their abusers or stalkers by changing a work phone number or implementing a safety plan in the workplace, among others.


If signed into law, California will become the seventh state to have a legislation that will make it illegal for employers to discriminate or retaliate against victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault in any aspect of employment, following Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island. However, California Gov. Jerry Brown is yet to make a stand on this proposed bill.


At the time of the passage of the bill at the Assembly Floor, a California teacher, Carie Charlesworth, testified before the committee in favor of the bill. Charlesworth, a second-grade teacher of 14 years at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon, was terminated from her position last April after a January 28 incident wherein her estranged husband went to campus.


The man, who verbally and emotionally abused Charlesworth for several years, was arrested following a preventive lockdown at the campus. She was put on leave, but her four children were not allowed to attend classes. She was later fired.


Before the committee, she explained as to why fear of termination is definitely a concern for victims of abuse like her. “Victims need to be able to speak up about what is happening so they can get the help they need to leave their abusive situation,” she said.


Aside from the scarcity of employment protection for abuse victims on the state level, bills are yet to make strides despite frequent introductions from federal legislators. A proposed bill called the Security and Financial Empowerment Act had been introduced in the House last March 15, but is yet to be referred to a committee.


Meanwhile, employment lawyers praised the SB 400’s passage in the State Assembly, saying that this proposed bill is a step on the right direction in protecting the welfare of abuse victims in the workplace.


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