A great advance for domestic violence victims and their allies was made in Washington state recently when a woman got her job back after being fired for taking leave when her husband violated his protective order. Hers was the first case to take advantage of Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act which allows victims as well as family members of the victims to take reasonable time off to obtain help from police and/or doctors. We at FVPC celebrate the coming of this act and hope other states will come to embrace similar legislative recourse for victims.
By enacting the Domestic Violence Leave Act, Washington state has become one of only about a dozen states across the country to have acts specifically geared toward protecting employment rights of domestic violence victims. These state statutes will work in combination with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. While the federal act gives broad guidelines for various reasons for qualified leave, these state acts hone in on the specific needs of domestic violence victims. State acts also provide more protection for victims because they give employers more direct standards as to how much time can be taken off, for what reasons victims may be granted leave, etc.
The need for statutory protection for domestic violence victims is unquestionable. The advocacy group, Legal Momentum, reports that on average domestic violence victims lose 137 hours of work per year. During an abusive relationship the loss of work can come as a result for the abuser’s need for absolute control. An abuser may cause visible injuries to their victim in order to cause him/her to lose a day of work. Other non-physical actions that may cause a victim’s loss of work include but are not limited to intentionally ruining plans for daycare, taking the family car and calling in sick for the victim. However, victims are also often pushed to take off time for work at the end of a relationship. Sometimes it may simply be because of the extreme fear the victim is undergoing at this most dangerous time of the relationship. Other times a victim may have to spend time during the work day meeting with medical and/or legal professionals or filing police reports.
The decision to leave an abuser can be a long and difficult process. We think that it is laudable that other sectors of society are beginning to acknowledge the complexity of such situations and hope the trend continues. We see states’ attention to domestic violence through these acts as a sign of greater community awareness. If you are an Orange County (NC) resident, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the many community education programs FVPC hosts. Please continue to check our blog and website for updates on our events.
If you are interested in hosting a community education event for your workplace, place of worship, school or other community group please contact our Volunteer and Community Education Coordinator, Elizabeth Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, it’s not too late for you to become a hotline volunteer at FVPC. Training starts on February 15th and will be every Tuesday and Thursday evening until March 24th. Please click here for the volunteer application.