Interpersonal Violence has negative consequences on individuals, families, and communities. For individuals who are working, interpersonal violence can cause major interruptions in the workplace for a multitude of reasons.
1 in 10 women and nearly 1 in 25 men who have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner missed work or school as result of abuse. A victim of interpersonal violence can seek a protective order from the court as a means of protection. North Carolina mandates some employment protection; an employer cannot neither fire nor discipline an employee because they took reasonable time off from work to obtain a protective order. Further, the employee must follow the organization’s time-off policy. An example of this as written in the law is “if the employer generally requires advance notice of absences, an employee must provide advance notice unless an emergency prevents the employee from doing so” (N.C. Gen. Stat. 50B-5.5 & 95-270(a)). An employer is allowed to ask to see documentation for the absence, such as a copy of the filed protective order stating the court date.
If you are fired after taking time off work to obtain a protective order, you may be able to file a complaint against the employer. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be protection for employees that miss work due to other issues related to interpersonal violence such as moving or medical appointments. Between one-quarter and one-half domestic violence victims report that they lost a job, at least in part, due to domestic violence. However, if you have to quit your job because of domestic violence, you may still be entitled to unemployment benefits.
Other states and counties provide greater protection for employees that are experiencing or have experienced interpersonal violence. For example, Hawaii added “Domestic Violence Victim Discrimination (Act 206, SB 299)” to their existing anti-discrimination laws employers must follow in 2011. The law requires the work place to provide reasonable accommodations such as changing the employees work location, allowing for flexible hours, restructuring the job functions, screening calls for the employee, and changing contact information of the employee.
In Illinois, the Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) offers employees unpaid leave for 12 weeks or 8 weeks if a private, state or local employer has 50 or more employees or 15 to 49 employees respectively. This leave time is for an employee or a family or household member who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
If you are an employer in North Carolina, consider creating policy changes to protect your employees coping with domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Domestic violence alone has been estimated to cost employers in the U.S. up to $13 billion each year. In 2014 a study in North Carolina estimated the value of loss of work productivity at $8,936, 865. By putting proactive policies in place, employers can reduce time and money lost in training, recruitment, hiring, etc. Additionally, assisting employees in regaining mental, emotional, and physical safety helps the greater community to mediate the negative, inter-generational effects of interpersonal violence.
Kathleen Maness, MSW, LCSWA
June 1, 2017