Domestic Violence Awareness Month is the perfect time to promote workplace policies that give abused employees paid time off to secure protection.
by Ilana Flemming
JWI has long worked to prevent domestic violence, provide tools for healthy relationships, and teach girls and women about financial literacy, economic independence, and how to build safe and thriving futures. This October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), JWI will launch a campaign in support of the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would establish a national standard for paid sick and safe days.
Paid safe days are a crucial protection for victims and survivors of violence. A simple addition to paid sick days policy, paid safe days provide victims with job-protected time off from work to seek services related to domestic abuse, sexual violence or stalking.
Survivors must be able to find safe housing, seek medical care, or attend a court date without putting their financial stability or job security at risk. Paid safe days would provide that protection. Working at the intersection of economic security and freedom from abuse, this year’s DVAM campaign builds on JWI’s history of advocacy for women and girls.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence cites financial dependence as one of the top reasons why victims of domestic violence stay with abusers. This is not just about buying groceries. For a woman in an abusive relationship, a job can provide a path to freedom: employment is a bridge between a violent, dangerous present and a safe, stable future.
A steady job provides crucial financial independence that is necessary to build a life free from violence—but not if the victim’s job is at risk due to abuse. Currently, no federal law protects victims with leave time to address needs related to abuse, and only 15 states have such laws.
In 2013, a New York woman named Natasha Velez was fired from her job at a restaurant after her boyfriend attacked her, fracturing her finger. Velez claimed that her manager said she had too many personal “issues” causing her to miss work, even after she showed him a domestic violence protection order and a doctor’s note.
Unfortunately, this story is not unique. Leaving an abusive relationship is a process that requires careful timing and planning to ensure safety, but too many women are forced to choose between a job and safety. For many victims, losing days of income or jeopardizing employment is a chance they can’t take, forcing impossible compromises that leave women at risk.
The Healthy Families Act is a simple, powerful proposal that would help victims and survivors as they build toward safe and healthy futures. Learn more and join JWI’s DVAM 2016 campaign for paid safe days at jwi.org/DVAM and call your Member of Congress to ask them to cosponsor the Healthy Families Act.