VC Star: Bill Advances to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Workplace Discrimination

June 26, 2013

SACRAMENTO — Backed by a witness who has become a national symbol for the challenges in the workplace faced by victims of domestic violence, a bill that would prohibit employers from discriminating against such victims narrowly survived a tough test in the Legislature on Tuesday.

The bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Employers would also be required to grant reasonable accommodations to workers who inform them of such circumstances.

Since Jackson introduced the bill in February, a case involving a San Diego schoolteacher has received extensive national attention and generated calls for action from victims’ advocates.

Carie Charlesworth was fired following an incident in which her abusive ex-husband, against whom she had filed a criminal complaint, came to the school parking lot, creating a safety concern that resulted in a precautionary lockdown of the Holy Trinity School in El Cajon. She was informed by the Archdiocese of San Diego in April that she could not return to work there or at any school in the archdiocese.

Charlesworth told members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee that such employer actions against a victimized employee ought to be against the law.

“My world fell apart. All those feelings I had as an abused woman came flooding back,” she said of her reaction to being terminated. “In my time of most need, I was made to feel that I committed the crime.”