A bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, that would prevent employers from firing or discriminating against an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking has passed off the Senate floor on a bipartisan vote and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval. The vote was 35-1.
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, testifying in support of it.
“I am elated that SB 400 is headed to Gov. Brown's desk,” Charlesworth said. “This puts us closer to the day when victims of domestic violence need not fear losing their jobs when they leave their abuser. I am thankful to Sen. Jackson for all the time and effort she put into this important and much-needed legislation. And I am grateful to her for allowing me to be a vocal proponent of this bill.”
“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 my legislation is attempting to solve. I’m pleased that this bill is moving forward. It has the opportunity to positively impact victims facing situations similar to Carie’s in the future.”
Senate Bill 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.
“I strongly believe that an unknown threat to a workplace is much more dangerous than a known threat,” Jackson said. “With information, employees and employers can work together to make a victim safer, their co-workers safer, and the entire workplace safer.”
A recent study by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, a sponsor of the bill, found that nearly 40 percent of victims in California reported either being fired or fearing termination due to domestic violence.
LAS–ELC Staff Attorney Rachael Langston said, “Without the means to support themselves and their children, survivors often feel they have no choice but to remain in a violent relationship. We are thrilled that SB 400 is one step closer to becoming law, and are heartened by the Legislature’s recognition of how vital this bill is to the safety and economic security of survivors.”
“The most common reason that victims choose to stay in, or return to, violent relationships is economic insecurity,” said Kathy Moore, interim executive director for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, who also sponsored the bill. “It’s imperative that survivors have job security, so they can get themselves out of danger without fear that they’ll be penalized if they reveal their status as domestic violence victims. SB 400 is a crucial safeguard for these vulnerable workers.”
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.