Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights

Does any of the following apply to you you or someone you know?

  • Afraid of losing a job because of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking?
  • Being harassed or stalked at work by a current or former partner?
  • Need to take time off to go to court, see a doctor, find a safe place to live, or take other steps to address domestic or sexual violence?
  • Need help talking to a boss about changes at work that could help make the workplace safer?
  • Lost a job due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking?

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Title IX

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Your Rights

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included several provisions for modernizing state unemployment insurance systems, such as providing access to unemployment insurance benefits to various groups who were not previously covered by state laws, including victims of domestic violence.
  • Victims of violence often lose their jobs at least in part due to the violence they have experienced in their personal lives. Employment and Housing Rights for Survivors of Abuse (EHRSA) aims to help victims of abuse escape the cycle of violence by advocating for their employment rights.

Safety Planning

  • Domestic or sexual violence does not always stop when a woman leaves home in the morning to go to work. For example, the abuser, stalker, or perpetrator of a sexual assault may come to the victim’s job and harass or assault her at work or the victim and the perpetrator may work together. This guide explains the legal remedies you may have against your employer if you have been injured at work by an abuser or perpetrator of an assault or if you have been assaulted at work.
  • Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking may be affected by the violence at work. The abuser or perpetrator may call you, stalk you, make threats against you or your children, or attack you at work. These efforts may be affect your ability to work or jeopardize your job. You may be able to reduce the impact that violence has on your job through safety planning.

Time Off

  • A survivor of domestic or sexual violence may have serious health conditions that require medical attention. These conditions may be either physical or psychological. Sometimes family and medical leave laws allow you to take time off to treat these conditions.

  • Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking often have to go to criminal court to testify in a case against the perpetrator of the crime. For example, an abused women may be asked to testify as a witness when the district attorney prosecutes a batterer for hitting, kicking, or attempting to murder the victim or a survivor of a sexual assault may be asked to testify in a rape trial. Many survivors will need to miss work to testify; survivors may also need to take time off from work to meet with the prosecutor to prepare for a criminal trial. Additionally, survivors may need to take time off from work to go to court for a civil protection order.

Discrimination

  • It is not unusual for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to have been arrested for or convicted of crimes related to the violence. Additionally, proceedings related to protective orders can sometimes appear on criminal background checks, even if the protective order was issued on your behalf against your abuser or the perpetrator of an assault. When you are looking for a job, you may be asked about your arrest record or your criminal record. This guide answers some common questions about laws that can protect you against discrimination and afford you privacy.
  • A survivor of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking may have physical and emotional disabilities caused by the abuse. Employers cannot discriminate against you if you have certain disabilities. This guide provides basic information about your right to protection against discrimination. It also tells you about your right to ask for changes in your workload, hours or space that are necessary because of your disability.
  • Were you fired, demoted, suspended, or forced to quit your job after your employer learned you were in an abusive relationship or a victim of a sexual assault or stalking? Are you being sexually harassed at work by the abuser? Have you been sexually assaulted at work?
  • Abused women and/or men in same-gender relationships face unique barriers to asserting their rights to be free from domestic violence including homophobia and misconceptions about domestic violence in same-gender relationships. Consider the following:

Unemployment Insurance

  • Are you afraid that an abuser, stalker, or perpetrator of sexual assault may harm you or your children while you are at work? Are you being stalked, harassed, or threatened while you are at work? Are you considering quitting your job because you fear for your safety and that of your children? If you are currently struggling to keep your job because of domestic or sexual violence, you may want to talk to your employer about your situation. For example, you can request changes to your job that will enable you to keep working, such as transfer to another work site or an escort to your car when you leave work each day. However, you may still feel too unsafe to stay at your job or you may lose your job. This guide describes the unemployment compensation system and how you may be able to obtain benefits.
  • Are you a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking? Is it affecting your ability to do your job? Are you thinking about – or have you already – quit your job because of the violence? Or were you fired because of the violence?

Welfare to Work Participants

  • Under federal welfare law, states are given a block of money by the federal government to design and run their welfare programs. Each state decides who qualifies for welfare, how much assistance a family can receive, how long a family can receive assistance and the types of programs that will be available to help welfare recipients. (In some states, like California and Illinois, the welfare programs are run at the county level, so county officials are making these decisions.) Families can only receive federal welfare benefits for up to five years. A number of states have shortened this time period. In addition, most states have made participation in welfare-to-work programs a condition of receiving welfare benefits unless a person is excused. These time limits and work requirements may pose a problem for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. For example, the time limits are often not long enough for survivors to become self-supporting. Research has shown that domestic and sexual violence keeps many women from successfully participating in and completing training programs and staying in jobs.

New York-Specific Resources

  • This letter requests a “reasonable accommodation” under New York City’s Human Rights Law. A reasonable accommodation is a change at work that will help you stay safe and allow you to do your job. You can also use this letter to ask for time off to take steps to address the violence.
  • This letter is drafted to challenge, under New York City’s Human Rights Law, a firing, demotion, or other change in how you are treated at work because your employer knows you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. It also requests “reasonable accommodations,” or changes at the workplace, to help you stay safe and do your job.
  • Domestic or sexual violence often affects victims or survivors at work. Victims may need time off to address the violence. They may also need changes made at work to stop the abuser or perpetrator from harassing them at work or to make the workplace safer. Some victims are illegally fired because of the violence. There are many laws that give victims working in New York City important rights and benefits. This guide answers some common questions.
  • Brochure for Advocates on How to Help Clients Stay Safe and Employed in New York City.

  • Employment Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking Working in New York City.
  • Under federal welfare law, New York State receives a block of money from the federal government to design and run its welfare program. New York decides who qualifies for welfare, how much assistance a family can receive, how long a family can receive assistance and the types of programs that will be available to help welfare recipients. In New York, families can receive cash benefits for up to five years (with the possibility of continued assistance in the form of vouchers after that time – called Safety Net Assistance). New York requires every adult welfare recipient to participate in a work or training activity as a condition of receiving welfare unless an individual is excused. In addition, welfare recipients are required to assist the state in collecting child support from non-custodial parents. The work requirement, the time limits, and the child support enforcement cooperation requirement may pose problems for survivors of domestic violence, but exemptions may be available. This guide explains welfare provisions that can help domestic violence survivors

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