When it comes to employment discrimination, most people already know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, gender, religion or age. However, employment discrimination laws in California also protect against discrimination for other events that occur less often. One of such events is domestic violence. In fact, California is one of only seven states with laws protecting workers against discrimination based on domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.
About the law
If you are not aware of these protections, it's likely because they were only passed into law in 2014. Specifically, the law protects against employment discrimination or retaliation if a worker is a victim of stalking, sexual assault or domestic violence and:
• The worker gives his or her employer notice of the event;
• The employer knows of that the employee is a victim; or
• The employee takes time off to go to court or seek legal assistance, such as getting a restraining order.
Additionally, the law protects against retaliation or discrimination if the employee needs to get counseling, medical attention or other such services because of the incident. Under the law, employees in California may also take "reasonable" time off from work to participate in necessary court proceedings (e.g., to obtain restraining orders) "to help ensure the health, safety or welfare of the [employee] or his or her child[ren]." Also, the employer must make other reasonable accommodations if the employee requests that his or her safety be increased while at work. These accommodations may include schedule changes, transfers, change of telephone numbers and other protective measures. These protections apply to both men and women.
How to take advantage of the law's protections
In order for the protections of the law to go into effect, the employee must give their employers reasonable notice of their intention to use time off, unless this cannot be done feasibly. Under the law, employees may use personal leave, vacation days unpaid leave, or other types of paid time off for the leave. If the circumstances are such that advance notice cannot be given, the employer cannot take any adverse action against the employee for taking the time off if he or she has provided proper certification. Certification under the law includes:
• Copies of police reports indicating that the employee is a victim of stalking, sexual assault or domestic violence;
• A copy of a court order protecting the employee from the perpetrator.
• Documentation showing the employee's appearance in court relating to the incident.
• Records or other documentation from a physician, counselor or healthcare provider proving that the employee underwent treatment because of the stalking, sexual assault or domestic violence.
Unless compelled by law to do otherwise, employers have a duty to keep these documents confidential.
Speak to an attorney
If you have been fired because of time off you took stemming from an incident of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, you may have the right under law to recover compensation in a wrongful termination lawsuit. In the lawsuit, you may recover your past and future wages and damages for emotional distress. Additionally, there may be other remedies available to you if you were not fired, but were retaliated against or experienced any adverse employment action.
When faced with either of these two scenarios, it is helpful to have the advice of an attorney before proceeding. The experienced employment law attorneys at Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP can use their years of experience to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome.