Broward County residents may remember hearing about a terrible workplace shooting in Orlando back in October. In that incident, a man went to his wife’s place of employment and opened fire, wounding his wife and killing three other women. This tragic event may have changed the way that some employers treat employees who are victims of domestic violence, because the employers now fear that the abuser might show up at work.

While this may certainly be a genuine concern to have, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently warned employers about how to treat known victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. While domestic violence victims are not a specifically protected class under federal anti-discrimination employment laws, they may still be legally protected from discrimination in the workplace and in hiring.

The EEOC recently issued a factsheet for employers on which it states that there are serious legal risks involved in discriminating against victims of domestic violence by firing them or refusing to hire them, for example. In many cases, according to the EEOC, the victims could file employment lawsuits under harassment, retaliation or disparate treatment laws.

The fact that the EEOC found this issue so important to issue such information suggests that it will take these types of discrimination claims very seriously.

Nonetheless, employers of course will want to prevent violent episodes at work. To do so, they might be wise to talk to the employee in question, as well as law enforcement and an employment law attorney about what options would be effective and legal.

Employees who feel they have been discriminated against at work because their employer correctly or incorrectly viewed them as a victim of domestic violence would also be wise to speak to an attorney about protecting their rights.

Source: Inside Counsel, “EEOC warns employers of discrimination related to domestic violence,” Mary Swanton, Dec. 21, 2012

  • If you are interested in learning more about discrimination claims, visit our South Florida law firm’s Employee Rights page.