Gov. Jerry Brown has a signed a bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, that protects domestic violence victims from losing their jobs or being discriminated against at work.
Senate Bill 400 prevents employers from firing or discriminating against an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. SB 400 would also require employers to make reasonable efforts to protect these victims from their abuser or stalker, such as changing their work telephone number, relocating their desk, or implementing a workplace safety plan.
The bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
“I commend the governor for signing this bill, which protects victims from job loss and discrimination at a time when they most need support and a steady paycheck,” Jackson said. “Victims will no longer fear losing their livelihoods and being re-victimized in the workplace because of the actions of their abusers. They will no longer fear retribution if they talk about these issues with an employer. And we will no longer send the mistaken message to employees that silence about these issues in the workplace is the same as safety.
“I strongly believe that an unknown threat to a workplace is much more dangerous than a known threat. With information, employees and employers can work together to make a victim safer, their co-workers safer, and the entire workplace safer.”
As the bill made its way through the Legislature, Carie Charlesworth, a former San Diego area teacher who made national news headlines when she was let go from her teaching job after her abusive ex-husband visited her school campus, became a proponent of the bill, traveling to Sacramento and testifying in support of it.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to know that because SB 400 has been signed into law, thousands of domestic violence victims won’t have to experience what I did — the devastation and financial uncertainty of losing a job and their professional identity just because they are victims of domestic violence,” Charlesworth said. “I am thankful to Senator Jackson for all the time and effort she put into this legislation. And I am grateful to her for allowing me to make a difference and be a vocal proponent of this bill. I am also thankful that the Governor signed this important legislation. Domestic violence is an important issue that needs to be addressed. By signing SB 400, the Governor is helping victims better their lives without the fear of losing their financial security."
“I introduced this bill a few months before Carie Charlesworth’s story began making headlines around the country,” Jackson said. “But when I heard Carie’s story, it was clear that her situation helped illustrate the problem this legislation is solving. I am grateful for her courage in coming forward. She has put a face and a story on this issue, and that has made a difference in how we perceive domestic violence victims and in the passage of this bill.”
“This bill is going to make a real difference in victim’s lives,” said Marsha Marcoe, associate executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County. “Victims will no longer fear losing their jobs, or fear talking to an employer about domestic violence situations. I commend Senator Jackson for her leadership on this issue, and the Governor for signing this bill into law.”
A recent study by the Legal Aid Society- Employment Law Center, a sponsor of the bill along with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, found that nearly 40 percent of victims in California reported either being fired or fearing termination due to domestic violence.
Rachael Langston, staff attorney at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, said, “We applaud Gov. Brown and Sen. Jackson for protecting the economic security and safety of survivors of violence. Without the means to support themselves and their children, survivors often feel they have no choice but to remain in a violent relationship. SB 400 will ensure that survivors can maintain their employment while keeping themselves and their families safe.”
SB 400 was designated a priority bill by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
As the bill worked its way through the Legislature, Jackson worked to address concerns raised by business groups. By the time the bill reached the Assembly floor, all business group opposition had been removed.
Jackson, who is vice-chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.