Domestic Violence and the Work Place - Employment Protections

While many victims of domestic violence fear they will be discriminated against by their employers after they disclose their situations, there are federal laws, which can provide job protection. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of domestic violence, talk with a lawyer or advocate to learn more about your legal rights and options.

Disabilities Caused by Domestic Violence: Americans with Disabilities Act

Experiencing and/or witnessing repeated abuse and severe violence can cause significant psychological distress. Some victims of domestic violence suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or mood disorders, and/or physical injuries, all of which may qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Who is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that any individual with a physical or mental impairment (including those listed above) that substantially limits a major life activity such as working, thinking or sleeping, is considered "disabled." The Act makes it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

For example, if you as a victim of domestic violence suffer from anxiety but can still perform the basic duties of your job, you cannot be harassed, demoted, terminated, paid less, or treated more poorly because of your disability.

Taking Leave from Work for Your Own Serious Health Condition

The physical injury and emotional trauma that victims of domestic violence experience may qualify as serious health conditions under Family/Medical Leave laws. This federal law allows certain employees to take an unpaid leave from work for up to 12 weeks without losing benefits, pay, health insurance or employment status.

To be covered under Family/Medical Leave laws you must:

  • Have worked for your employer at least 12 months (even on a part-time or temporary basis)
  • Have worked at least 1, 250 hours during the 12 months before the leave (approximately 25 hours a week)
  • Work for an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your workplace
  • Have a serious health condition

Under the family/medical leave laws, a serious health condition is defined as an illness, injury, physical or mental condition which causes a period of incapacity (inability to work, attend school or perform other regular daily activities) and which requires at least one of the following:

  • An overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical-care facility
  • Continuing treatment by a health care provider