Two Bills That Can Help Domestic Violence Survivors

california partnership to end domestic violence

Our friends, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, are supporting two bills that will improve protections given to domestic violence survivors. The bills are going through the state legislative process right now.

SB 400 (Jackson)–Employment protections: victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking

This bill will protect domestic violence survivors from termination or discrimination in the workplace because of their known status as survivors, and ensure that employers provide them with reasonable safety accommodations. The Partnership is co-sponsoring SB 400 along with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). The bill will also protect the survivors of sexual assault and stalking.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking often impede the ability of survivors to maintain employment. Studies show alarming rates of job loss and other problems at work due to abuse. According to the Government Accountability Office, nearly 25% of survivors who lost a job did so, at least in part, because they had suffered/ were suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. According to a recent study conducted by The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s Project SURVIVE, nearly 40% of survivors reported they were fired or feared termination due to domestic violence.

Survivors often face severe economic barriers when attempting to leave the perpetrators of violence. The ability to retain a job and become economically independent is vital for escaping a violent environment and becoming self-sufficient.

Additionally, when survivors fear adverse employment actions, they are also more hesitant to report to and work with the law enforcement officials who investigate the crimes. Firing an employee who discloses that she/he is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking undermines California’s public policy to protect the economic independence and safety of survivors and to encourage reporting of safety concerns in the workplace without fear of retribution. The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence supports safety for survivors and all employees in the workplace as well as strengthening businesses’ ability to prevent future violence.

SB 612 (Leno)–Residential tenancy: victims of human trafficking and elder or dependent adult abuse

The Partnership is co-sponsoring SB 612 with the National Housing Law Project. The bill protects the survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder or dependent abuse, and human trafficking who need to terminate their leases early to ensure their safety.

California law currently allows survivors of domestic violence to break their residential leases with documentation of abuse. However, the documentation is limited to a court-issued protective order or a police report. It is not always feasible or advisable for a survivor of domestic violence or human trafficking to obtain a restraining order or police report. Domestic violence survivors are often reluctant to involve the court system or law enforcement due to the difficulty navigating the court system, fear of retaliation or increased violence by the abuser, or fear of the child welfare system. Immigrant survivors may also fear being reported by their abusers to immigration officials for deportation.

Even when survivors do not want to involve the criminal justice system, they are often working with other service providers to address the abuse and increase their safety. SB 612 will allow survivors to submit documentation from a medical professional, health care provider, domestic violence or sexual assault counselor, or human trafficking case worker., and by doing so will allow more survivors to obtain this critical safety protection. Furthermore, SB 612 will ensure that documentation of the abuse remains confidential, providing an important privacy protection for this sensitive information.

Descriptions of the bills courtesy of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

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