The Business, Entrepreneurship & Tax Law Review


Today, there is a large population of Americans whose plight is invisible to much of the rest of society - the survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and violence. While in the last few years survivors’ voices are beginning to be heard, the legal landscape is still lagging far behind and is sorely inadequate to provide protections and relief to survivors in many areas of life. Particularly, this is prominent in the employment landscape where federal protections for survivors are sparse. Moreover, survivor-employees are vulnerable to discrimination, unfair firing, and inadequate leave for court appearances and medical assistance. These obstacles still threaten survivors’ ability to ensure economic and financial security upon leaving their abuser. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not have the adequate safeguards necessary to protect survivors in the workplace. Additionally, Congress’s few attempts to pass legislation on the matter - like the Violence Against Women Act - have not been successful. Recent legislation is either struck down at the committee level, or partisan issues end up stripping the laws of much of their power. This article explores the legal background and history of the few existing federal laws, the current avenues used by survivors to pursue employment discrimination claims, and the states that have already enacted their own expanded protections in various ways. This article then discusses the counterarguments that employers raise if federal laws were to be expanded. Finally, to remedy this lack of protection, this article proposes the creation of a new federally protected class status for “abused persons” by amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, adopting and amending several pieces of state law as models, and putting in safeguards to ease employers’ worries about costs and liability.

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