CONCORD — Legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence while requiring them to provide them reasonable protections in the workplace, sponsored by Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Hosmer, who served as an assistant district attorney before joining AutoServ, his family's automobile dealership, said that handling domestic violence cases gave him insight into a cycle of violence that many victims cannot escape. "One of the biggest factors that prevented victims from fully and completely separating from their abusers," he continued, "was their inability to achieve or maintain economic independence. " He explained that abusers often interfere with their victims' work environment and by jeopardizing their employment increase the likelihood they will return to their abusers.
"Nearly three-quarters of abused women reported being harassed by the partner while at work," Hosmer said. "Victims should not have to continue suffering in silence due to thefear they have of losing their jobs."
Seven states have enacted similar legislation to protect victims in the workplace, Hosmer said. .Senate Bill 390 would forbid discrimination in hiring as well as in the terms and conditions of employment.
It would also require an employer to make "reasonable safety accommodation" for a victim of domestic violence unless it could be demonstrated that doing so would "impose an undue hardship of the operation of the business." Hosmer said employers could request victims of domestic violence to produce police reports, restraining orders or other appropriate documentation to confirm their status and qualify for a protective accommodation. Accommodations could include changing telephone numbers, e-mail addresses or work stations.
Hosmer said that he was encouraged by yesterday's hearing. He said that after conducting what he called "an informal poll" of businesses he found most employers "favorable." The bill, he said, "is not onerous, but strikes a balance."