Victim of Domestic Violence? Know Your Rights at Work

Victim of Domestic Violence? Know Your Rights at Work

New York Lawyers Share EEOC Guidance About Employment Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence

Lawyers at Leeds Brown Law, P.C., representing victims of employment discrimination throughout New York, understand that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly protect against every possible category of discrimination. Title VII and other federal laws make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an applicant or employee because of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability, and age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that receives complaints, conducts investigations and authorizes legal action when victims experience workplace discrimination.

What happens when you face discrimination at your place of employment, but you are not a member of a federally protected class? In other words, the discrimination you experience is not because of your race, sex, religion or other explicitly protected characteristic. For example, Title VII does not explicitly protect domestic violence victims from workplace discrimination. Approximately one of every three women in our country either are or will be abuse victims and are often more likely than others to have obligations and distractions that cause problems with employers or recruiters. Because of days they must appear in court, seek medical attention or address mental health issues caused by abuse and intimidation, victims of domestic violence often face workplace discrimination, making it hard to secure or maintain employment.

If you experience discrimination as an employee or job applicant based on your status as a domestic violence victim, can you still file a claim with the EEOC? Are there state laws that may protect you? These are examples of questions that our attorneys receive, and with the help of some EEOC guidance, we will provide explanations below. If you have questions about your specific workplace discrimination claim, please call our office.

Employment law attorneys at Leeds Brown who have been handling discrimination cases in New York and across the country for decades, work collaboratively with clients who wish to enforce their rights to equal treatment in the workplace. We can help determine if you have a valid claim, formulate and file a complaint with the EEOC or state agency, and represent your interests in a court of law if that is what it takes to achieve the successful outcome you deserve.

Does Title VII Protect Employees who Experience Domestic Abuse or Violence?

Sometimes. Title VII and other federal equal employment opportunity laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination against employees or applicants because they are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual assault. Discrimination and retaliation against these victims, according to the EEOC, occur but are often overlooked. Since Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex and sex-based stereotypes, however, there may be occasions when the law provides protection to individuals who are victims of assault, stalking, and domestic or dating violence.

What Are Some Examples of Title VII Protecting a Victim of Domestic Violence?

The EEOC provides the following situations where workplace discrimination against a domestic violence victim may be unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII:

  • The hiring manager at a company believes that only women can truly be victims of domestic violence. He does not choose a male applicant after he learns he obtained a restraining order against his wife after she hit him.
  • After learning that the boyfriend of a female employee is beating her, a supervisor fires the employee claiming he does not want the “drama” that abused women bring to the office.
  • A manager allows a male employee to take unpaid time off from work to attend court proceedings stemming from an assault against him. The same manager does not permit a female employee to take unpaid time off to testify in her domestic violence case against her husband.
  • A co-worker stalks a female employee. The co-worker waits outside the restroom for her, appears at her home late at night and sends threatening emails and phone messages to her personal accounts. The female employee reports to management that she is afraid to come to work because of the stalking and her supervisor tells her to “deal with it.”
  • An employee reports to human resources that a company manager sexually assaulted her at a business conference. In response, other managers begin excluding her from meetings and telling people not to speak to her.
  • An employee confides in her supervisor that she has left her abusive relationship and is living in a women’s shelter. The supervisor sees this as an opportunity and makes a sexual advance. When the employee refuses the advance, her supervisor terminates her employment.

Who Can File a Discrimination Complaint With the EEOC?

EEOC attorneys at Leeds Brown can tell you if Title VII covers you and your place of employment. If you work for an employer with 15 or more employees, you are entitled to file a discrimination claim with the EEOC. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits employment discrimination based on sex only applies to employers with at least 15 employees.

Are There Local Laws that Prohibit Workplace Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence?

Yes. New York State and New York City have laws that make it unlawful for an employer with four or more employees to discriminate against an employee or job applicant because he or she is a victim of domestic abuse. Lawyers at the firm of Leeds Brown can help protect the rights of domestic violence victims in the workplace.

New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) explicitly states that it is unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer “because of an individual’s…domestic violence victim status, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.”

In New York, a domestic violence victim has explicit workplace protection under our State laws. An employer may not refuse to hire, fire, demote, retaliate against or make an employment decision based on an individual’s status as a victim of domestic violence. An employee does not have to show that the discrimination falls under the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII and the jurisdiction of the EEOC to qualify for protection under the NYSHRL.

For example,

  • You advise your boss that you have obtained an order of protection against your ex- boyfriend who has been stalking you. Your boss doesn’t want to deal the possibility of him coming to find you at the office and fires you. You may have recourse under NYSHRL.
  • On Monday you ask your supervisor for Tuesday off because you have to deal with a domestic violence issue. Even though your supervisor regularly allows employees to take time off with one day’s notice to address personal issues, she refuses to grant your request and provides no reason for her decision. This refusal might be unlawful employment discrimination under NYSHRL.

Employees in New York who are domestic violence victims have the right to ask their employer to make a reasonable accommodation that will allow them to perform their job. An accommodation might include schedule changes, security measures or an arrangement to work from home.

Contact Us

If you think you are experiencing workplace discrimination as the result of your status as a victim of domestic violence or abuse, one of your first steps should be speaking with attorneys at Leeds Brown. Our staff of professionals can help determine what laws protect your right to receive fair and equal treatment and the best way to proceed with a complaint against your employer.

At Leeds Brown, our compassionate lawyers listen carefully to the facts of your workplace discrimination case and provide you with the guidance you need to secure the results you want. Should you file a claim with the EEOC? Would your interests be better served by filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights? What law protects you the most?

Let expert advocates at Leeds Brown, representing clients in New York City and the surrounding counties, answer your questions about workplace discrimination and the EEOC. Contact us today to find out if you still have time to enforce your rights. Someone is available 24/7 to take your call at 1-800-585-4658.



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