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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and with the latest domestic violence scandals placing the NFL’s moral obligations in the spotlight, employers should reflect on what their obligations should be to employees who are victims of domestic abuse. One in three women are victims of domestic abuse. The consequences of domestic abuse go beyond the psychological and physiological harm caused to the victim and can even extend into the victim’s workplace. Victims of domestic violence are at risk of losing their jobs due to periods of absence related to the abuse. Victims may be absent from work while they seek medical treatment, legal assistance, and even for relocation purposes. Most states do not ban employment discrimination against victims of domestic abuse, but in the last couple of years some states have passed laws providing victims with time off from work. California recently amended its labor code to prohibit employers “from taking adverse employment action against a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault who takes time off from work to attend to issues arising as a result of the domestic violence or sexual assault . . . .” The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that most victims fail to leave their abuser due to a lack of economic self-sufficiency. With legislation prohibiting employers from taking any adverse action against a domestic violence victim for time taken off to deal with their personal situation, victims should be more inclined to walk away from their abuser knowing that they will not lose their sole source of income. This would thereby eliminate the victim’s need to be financially dependent on their abuser and increase the victim’s willingness to remove herself from the abusive relationship. And while most states do not have a law protecting domestic abuse victims from adverse employment actions, employers should consider instituting a similar policy supporting their employees, because the NFL isn’t the only workplace where domestic violence is a problem.

Ingrid Cepero