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NYC Lawsuit Against Employer Who Discriminated Against DV Survivor

Thursday, April 20, 2006

  • By: Caroline Bettinger-Lopez
  • Organization: ACLU Women's Rights Project

Today, the ACLU Women's Rights Project filed EEOC charges on behalf of a domestic violence victim who was discriminated and retaliated against by her employer after she revealed that she was the victim of domestic abuse and took measures to assert her legal rights as a victim. This EEOC filing followed on the heals of a lawsuit that we filed last month on behalf of this employee, alleging violations of the 2001 and 2003 amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibit employment discrimination against domestic violence victims and require employers to provide victims with "reasonable accommodations." Our client, who has requested for privacy reasons that we not reveal her name, was terminated by her employer after she revealed that she was a victim of domestic violence and requested time off to attend to medical, legal, and other safety needs, and a safety transfer to another worksite. Each time our client asserted her rights as a victim of domestic violence and attempted to protect herself from continued abuse, her employer retaliated against her by systematically increasing threats of discipline and actual discipline of her, and ultimately terminating her. In our lawsuit, we request reinstatement, a safety transfer, back pay, monetary compensation for emotional distress, and other appropriate relief.

We hope that our case will build off the success of Reynolds v. Fraser, the first case brought under these new provisions of the New York City Human Rights Law. That case was brought as a "special" Article 78 proceeding challenging the decision of the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) to terminate a victim of domestic violence after she revealed her victim status. In a lengthy consideration of the public policy reasons behind the amended New York City legislation, the judge in Reynolds found that "[t]he ability to hold on to a job is one of a victim's most valuable weapons in the war for survival, since gainful employment is the key to independence from the batterer." The judge then vacated DOC's decision to terminate Ms. Reynolds' employment and ordered reinstatement and back pay.

If you would like additional information about this case, please contact me offline. Our client has authorized us to share more detailed information about her case on an individual basis. We are also available to provide trainings to organizations and community groups about the employment rights of domestic violence survivors. I can be reached at cbettingerlopez@aclu.org.

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