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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 passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The vote was 6-1.

Testifying in support of the bill was Carie Charlesworth, a former San Diego teacher who made national news headlines when she was let go from her San Diego teaching job after her abusive ex-husband visited her school campus.

“Victims should not have to continue suffering in silence due to the fear they have of losing their jobs,” Charlesworth said in her testimony. “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. The fear of losing their job — the way they can support themselves and their families after they leave an abuser — should not be a burden they have to carry.”

“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 in very clear terms 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.”

“We should not send the message to victims of domestic violence that, if they come forward, they risk losing their jobs,” Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center senior staff attorney Sharon Terman said. “Instead we should encourage survivors to disclose their situation so that they can work with their employers to create a safer workplace for everyone.  SB 400 would do just that, and we applaud the Judiciary Committee for taking this important step.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.