Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The imperative of protecting victims of domestic violence

The City Council's Committee on Aging and Community Affairs (Ward 7 CM Yvette Alexander, chair) is holding a public hearing on B18-796, "Protecting Victims of Crime Amendment Act of 2010" (B18-796), introduced by CM Yvette Alexander and co-sponsored by all 13 members of the Council, on July 1 at 11:00 am in the JAWB.   Details about the hearing are in the notice.

This legislation establishes critical protections from workplace discrimination for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking.   That abuse impacts workplace performance is well established.   Thanks to the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I am now aware of the following:

  • On the employer side, research shows that the annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence alone is approximately $727.8 million.   (Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, available online (2003))
  • On the worker side:   victims of domestic violence lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year; 74% of employed battered women report being harassed by their partner while they were at work; and between 25-50% of victims of domestic violence report that they have lost a job due to domestic violence.   (Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, available online (2003); Family Violence Prevention Fund, The Workplace Guide for Employers, Unions and Advocates.   San Francisco, CA (1998); National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, Violence Against Women Act 2005—Title VII:   Economic Security (February 2005).)
  • Domestic violence crimes in the District have increased over the past several years.   In 2009, the Metropolitan Police Department received 31,232 domestic-related crime calls - a nearly 2% increase over the previous year.   That same year, despite the fact that the overall homicide rate was down by 25%, domestic violence homicides increased by 5%, a trend that Police Chief Cathy Lanier has publicly stated is a concern for her office.   (Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Statistics, available online; The Washington Times, "DC police expect fewer than 100 homicides this year," August 19, 2009, available online)

The bill, which is based upon laws and best practices in other jurisdictions, prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against workers on the basis of their status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking.   It also requires employers to take reasonable steps, when necessary, to ensure the overall safety of an employee.   Any such change or accommodation must be reasonable in relation to the size, staffing levels, and resources of the business and could be as simple as modifying a victim’s work schedule or changing a phone number.   Finally, the bill also requires employers to post a policy about workplace violence and, in partnership with experts in the field, provide trainings on the topic.

There is a clear imperative for this legislation.   To voice your support and to encourage CMs to support this legislation, email the entire City Council.   If you have questions about the legislation, email the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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