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Workplace protections for domestic abuse victims: part one

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, being at home with your abuser can become a nightmare. However, for some the home isn't where the abuse ends. Often the violent party will try to contact the victim at work, even making threats via business email or showing up at their partner's office.

Many domestic violence victims who are leaving an abusive relationship have two types of concerns relating to their employment: what protections are they entitled to and what are their obligations as an employee? These laws can vary by state or municipality but several guiding principles may help you plot a course of action.

As far as protections for domestic violence victims in the workplace, some states have laws that allow you to take time off work to deal with the situation. The federal Family & Medical Leave Act can also provide for time off if the abuse resulted in physical or mental trauma. FMLA leave is typically unpaid but some employers allow you to use paid vacation time for FMLA leave. In addition, you won't have to worry about losing your job while you're out.

Some companies have their own domestic violence policies in place to guide the situation. These provisions will vary by company but may include additional protections like added security or a parking space close to the building.

No matter what your employer's policy, it is important to be up-front with someone you trust at work. In our next post we'll talk about having this difficult conversation you're your employer and some things that it might be wise to tell them.

Source: CBS News, "What do you tell your boss when you're leaving your abuser?" April 8, 2013

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