- New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed new legislation that expands employment protections for victims of domestic violence.
- The law (A5618/S1040) amends the state's Human Rights Law to include victims of domestic violence as a protected class, along with age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, criminal or arrest record, or predisposing genetic characteristics.
- The law covers New York employers with more than four employees. The addition to the law makes it so covered employers must allow employees time off to receive medical attention, access victim services, attend counseling, relocate or plan for relocation or make court appearances.
Domestic violence is a concern for employers because domestic disputes often spill over into the workplace. According to a survey conducted by the Maine Department of Labor and reported by Fortune, 78% of abusers used the workplace to express anger, harass, threaten or pressure their victim; 74% obtained access to their partner's workplace; and 21% made contact with the victim at work in violation of a restraining order.
In addition to heightened safety risks, employers pay a steep cost — more than $8 billion a year — for domestic violence in terms of lost productivity, mental health services, and medical care. Survivors are often distracted or unwell during the workday. Despite this, Fortune reports that 65% of workplaces don't have formal workplace domestic violence policies in place.
An increasing number of localities are offering paid "safe days" that enable survivors to take time off for domestic violence-related matters, including court appearances and protective service appointments, without the additional burden of losing pay.
Survivors often opt to miss important court dates rather than lose a day of pay, so unpaid safe days may not be of much practical assistance to survivors who are concerned about finances. Additionally, not all city-level paid sick laws include provisions that explicitly provide for the use of safe time, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). CEPR calls this "an oversight that needs to be corrected" because "paid sick days would allow victims time to seek lifesaving services from local domestic violence programs." A McKinsey and Company report from 2016 cited violence against women as one of ten factors contributing to gender inequality at work.
Many companies are training their employee assistance teams on how to screen workers for indications of distress, including signs of domestic violence.