Governor Jerry Brown Signs Bill to Protect Domestic Abuse Victims from Employer Discrimination

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and recently Opposing Views published an article about the discrimination that victims of domestic abuse can face in the workplace.

In the essay, we highlight the case of Carie Charlesworth, who was fired as a teacher after 14 years because her abusive ex-husband stalked her on the school property, prompting a school lockdown. In her letter of termination from the Diocese of San Diego, after listing her ex-husbands troubling record of abuse and violence, writes, “[i]n the interest of the safety of the students, faculty, and parents at Holy Trinity School, we simply cannot allow you to return to work there or, unfortunately, at any other school in the diocese.” Charlesworth’s children were also removed from classes at the school and told not to return.

After her firing, Charlesworth became an advocate for legislation already introduced in the California State Legislature that seeks to protect victims of domestic violence, being further discriminated against by their employers. The law passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, which takes effect January 1, 2014. The bill prevents employers from firing women who have been the victim of domestic abuse.

If these victims have to fear for their jobs, it is yet another reason why they might stay silent and not report their abuse to authorities. In a letter from Tom Beecher, the director of the San Diego Diocese’s Office for Schools, he cited preventing another Sandy Hook shooting (which had nothing to do with domestic abuse) as the reason for the firing. “We couldn’t possibly jeopardize innocent children to justify [Charlesworth’s] return,” he said, the troubling implication being that Charlesworth and her children are somehow not innocent.

Charlesworth is pleased the legislation passed and is currently suing the San Diego Diocese saying they violated church law.