Employment and Victims of Violence

If you are being watched, leave now!

Victim Workplace Rights

Legal Momentum advocates for employment policies that protect the rights of victims of violence and prevent them from losing their jobs. We train employers and unions, draft and promote new legislation, track legislative developments nationwide, and bring cases to expand and enforce the employment rights of victims.

Legal Momentum recognizes that women who are victims of violence can also be targets of employment discrimination, just when maintaining economic independence and security is most critical.

Legal Momentum’s primary goal is to strengthen and expand the employment rights and economic security of victims of gender-based violence on a national scale. We seek to help to help women victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking keep their jobs and safe housing while breaking free from violent relationships or recovering from the trauma of assault. To achieve these goals, Legal Momentum combines public education, advocacy, and targeted litigation.

Our work addresses the following issues:

Prevalence of Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking

Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are widespread in the United States, affecting individuals of virtually every racial, ethnic, gender, age and socioeconomic group. One in three women in the United States are or will be victims of domestic violence. Such violence is known to increase in times of recession and greater unemployment, just when individual women, families, and other support structures – such as community shelters and government assistance programs – have fewer resources.

Victims' Economic Independence and Job Security

Studies indicate that one of the best predictors of whether a victim will stay away from his or her abuser is the victim’s degree of economic independence. However, violence often jeopardizes victims’ ability to keep a job, whether because of the need for time off for court appearances or medical attention, or abusers’ active interference or sabotage, i.e. preventing victims from going to work, harassment at work, limiting access to cash and transportation, and manipulating child-care arrangements. Accordingly, female victims are more likely than other women to be unemployed, to suffer from health problems that can affect employability and job performance, to report lower personal income, and to rely on welfare.

Community Awareness and Employer Cooperation

Employers can play a vital role in supporting a woman as she or he seeks to break away from a violent situation or recover from an assault. Legal Momentum has resources available for companies and organizations that outline best practices and policies for supporting employee victims of violence (PDF). Basic steps include: allowing victims to take leave to attend court hearings, meet with victims’ counselors and lawyers, and guarantee employees’ job security during the process. For more on workplace policies, see our "10 Principles for the Workplace" and our "This Workplace is DV-Free" campaign.

Federal and State Laws Protecting Victims

In the aftermath of the 2009 recession, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included important provisions that encouraged states to adopt changes to their unemployment insurance eligibility requirements. Now, most states offer unemployment insurance for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who are forced to leave their jobs to deal with an assault. Likewise many states have laws that prevent employment discrimination against victims of these crimes. Legal Momentum publishes comprehensive State Law Guides outlining victims’ Employment Rights (PDF) and Housing Rights (PDF).

Immigrant Victims

Workplace Exploitation, Immigration Raids and Detention Policies Undocumented immigrant women confront the highest rates of personal violence in their homes and sexual harassment, coercion and exploitation at work. When federal immigration officials raid workplaces and detain undocumented workers, immigrant victims are often swept up in the process. Legal Momentum was instrumental in the creation of T-Visas and U-Visas which allow immigrant victims of trafficking or violence to stay within the country legally as they cooperate with investigations. Through our Immigrant Women Program, we continue to work the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement and immigrant advocacy organizations to protect this vulnerable population.