SoCal woman inspires bill to protect domestic violence victims

August 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's an effort underway in Sacramento to protect victims of domestic violence from losing their jobs. But the way lawmakers are considering doing that is controversial.

A private school near San Diego fired veteran second grade teacher Carie Charlesworth after her ex-husband violated a restraining order by showing up at her school, where their four kids also attend.

Nobody was hurt, he was arrested, but she was fired.

Her school said that as a domestic violence victim, her presence there was putting others at risk.

"They just imagined the worst," Charlesworth said. "And their response was to take away the person that is seen as the threat, which was me. And we were told to stay away from the school. When asked if that included her and her children, she answered, "All five of us."

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is pushing a measure that would give job protection to victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assaults. In other words, they can't be fired because of those circumstances.

That'll apply until safety is no longer an issue.

The bill also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to ensure safety.

The idea is to encourage people to come forward, not only to police but also their bosses.

"It's an important bill because we all know that unknown dangers are greater than known dangers," Jackson said.

Opponents want to ensure victims' safety, but aren't sure if employers should bear all the burden in making sure the workplace is safe.

"Changing the locks, making sure there's a secure environment, time off work, I think this is going to be one more reason why employers will say, 'Well gee, the cost to do business in California is so high that I'm going to locate elsewhere,'" said Assm. Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

An Assembly committee put the bill on hold while it analyzes the cost to implement such workplace protections.

It won't help Charlesworth if the proposal wins approval, but it could help change perceptions.

"I just think that it's one step forward for people to not have this negative image of domestic violence," she said.

A 2011 study by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center found nearly 40 percent of domestic violence survivors in California reported being fired or feared termination.

Load Comments