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Victims or Survivors of Domestic Violence in New York City Have Rights

Pursuant to the New York City Human Rights Law, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against, fire, or refuse to hire an employee because he or she is a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.

An employer is entitled to ask for proof of domestic violence status. Such proof includes a sworn statement from a professional helping the employee address the violence, such as a shelter or victims’ services agency, doctor, lawyer, or member of the clergy; a police record; a temporary or permanent restraining order; or “other corroborating evidence.”

If the abuser harasses the victim or survivor at work, either remotely or in person, it is prohibited by law to punish or fire the victim or survivor because of the abuser’s conduct.

Employers must work with the victim or survivor to provide reasonable accommodations that would allow him or her to do the job- for example, changing a phone number at work so the abuser cannot call, is such an accommodation. Also, an employee may ask for time off to find safe housing, receive counseling, or take other steps to address the violence as a “reasonable accommodation.” A requested accommodation must be provided unless it would pose an undue hardship on the business.

Employers must not engage in retribution against employees for taking time off to go to court or to otherwise address the domestic violence. However, an employer does not need to pay an employee for the time that he or she is absent on account of addressing the domestic violence.

If an employee quits or leaves his or her job because of the violence, that should not bar him or her from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Circumstances related to domestic violence may be “good cause” for voluntarily quitting a job. Also, some judges have held that “misconduct” related to the violence (such as absenteeism or tardiness) may not bar an employee from collecting unemployment benefits.