December 11, 2009
HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
By: Soncia Coleman, Associate Legislative Attorney
You asked for a comparison of certain Connecticut domestic violence laws to laws in other states.
This report summarizes the law in Connecticut and neighboring states related to domestic violence victims' housing and employment rights, if such laws exist. The laws vary greatly by state.
A number of states, including Connecticut, have adopted laws to secure the housing rights of domestic violence victims. Connecticut law requires the state to provide a special needs benefit for emergency housing to temporary family assistance program or state supplementation program recipients who relocate due to domestic violence (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17b-808(a)(2)). New Jersey allows domestic violence victims to terminate their leases if the tenant certifies that it is dangerous for the person to remain. The tenant must provide verification, which may include, among other things, a medical or police report or a restraining order (N.J. Stat. § 46:8-9 et seq.). New York has a similar law for victims who have obtained orders of protection (see N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 227-C). Rhode Island law prohibits landlords and mortgage lenders from terminating a lease or discriminating against a tenant or applicant because the person is a victim of domestic violence (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-1 et seq.).
Employment Rights in General
Many states have laws that protect crime victims from being penalized for taking time off from work for activities relating to the criminal action. For instance, Connecticut law prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for having a restraining order issued on his or her behalf, or for attending court or participating in a police investigation in a criminal case where the employee, or his or her family member, is the victim (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-85b). Several states have taken the step of specifically preventing employment discrimination based on domestic violence. For instance, the neighboring state of New York added domestic violence victims to the list of groups protected from employment discrimination under state law (N.Y. Exec. Law § 296-1a).
Generally, unless good cause is shown, an individual is ineligible for unemployment benefits if he or she voluntarily terminates employment. However, according the Legal Momentum, over 30 jurisdictions have passed laws that provide unemployment insurance to domestic violence victims under certain conditions. Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-236(a), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York have all adopted such laws.
Workplace Restraining Orders
As of August 2009, the following 10 states had adopted laws specifically allowing employers to seek restraining orders based on violence against, or harassment of, their employees: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee. The organization notes the variations in the laws, including whether the order is sought on behalf of the employer or employee.
A number of states and cities have (1) adopted laws, ordinances, or executive orders requiring the adoption of workplace policies on domestic violence or (2) instituted measures to create model policies for voluntary adoption. For instance, a 2007 Massachusetts executive order requires all state agencies to adopt a zero tolerance policy for workplace domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. New York has a similar
requirement for state agencies. Additionally, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence was required to develop model policies for state, county, and private employers.
Source: Legal Momentum (The Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund) 2009 State Law Guides.