Gender discrimination laws may help protect abuse victims’ jobs

How long is it going to take before society stops blaming the domestic violence victim for the actions of the abuser?

It seems like the problem isn’t ever going to end — especially to abuse victims. For example, a California teacher was recently fired because her estranged and abusive husband entered school grounds and caused a panic. He went to jail — but she was punished for being a victim by losing her job.

The worst part of the situation is that it’s not illegal in California to fire someone who is the victim of abuse — at least, not yet. A non-discriminatory bill has been introduced to the California Senate which could change that situation. If it does, California would join only six other states that have laws protecting abuse victims from discrimination.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that victims are entirely without hope, however, of pressing a discrimination lawsuit against their former employer if they are fired or otherwise punished simply for being abused.

Employers are still barred from sex or gender discrimination — and many abusive situations have an element of sexual harassment or gender discrimination to them that could be used to protect the victim’s job.

For example, what has happened in the past if a male coworker’s estranged wife or girlfriend shows up on the job and made a scene or issued threats? Was the male coworker also fired?

If you’re a woman in a similar situation but you find yourself being handed a pink slip because your abusive spouse or boyfriend’s threats are “disrupting business” or “scaring other employees,” you could have a case for gender-based discrimination even if the law doesn’t expressly protect you as an abuse victim.

It’s important for victims of abuse and discrimination to fight back whenever they can. Before you assume that you are powerless to fight the loss of your job because of your abuser’s actions, talk the situation over with an attorney who handles wrongful termination claims. For more information on how our firm approaches the issue, please visit our page.