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Unemployment Benefits Offered to Survivors Forced to Quit
Some, but not all, states allocating for more financial security options when fleeing domestic violence
- Jul 20, 2020
If you’re facing abuse and violence (or the threat of it) at home, going to work can be a welcome relief, a safe island you get to escape to each day. But if you make the decision to leave that abusive partner, your feeling of safety at work can quickly fade. Why? Because survivors who leave violence are at high risk of being murdered, and even if they’ve moved, an abuser can still find them at work.
Fortunately, state laws are slowly changing on this front to protect survivors in the workplace. Many states now allow domestic violence survivors to apply for unemployment benefits when they need to leave a job because of an abuser’s threats and their company doesn’t have the option or the capacity to relocate them.
In 2019, Florida enacted a law of this type. Under HB 563, which went into effect last July, the survivor must present a court injunction, protective order or other evidence that “reasonably proves” domestic violence occurred in order to qualify for unemployment benefits after leaving a job. Having this option can be critically important for survivors who decide to leave an abusive partner.
"For that person, working in a job where there's only one location or at a small company that doesn't have the ability to relocate them to another site, this is creating an opportunity for a survivor to be able to leave the job, but have some income while they find a new position," Mindy Murphy, president and CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, told Florida’s Fox 13.
More Options for Starting Over
When a survivor makes the decision to leave, they know that it may not just mean leaving home. Yes, they have to find safe, and affordable housing, which itself can be challenging. But since their job is often the easiest place for an abuser to track them down and harass, stalk, intimidate or harm them, leaving threatens not only their safety at work but can also affect their ability to keep their job. In fact, as many as 21-60 percent of survivors of intimate partner violence may lose their jobs because of abuse, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
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You may be wondering if your state offers these kinds of protections. Because employment law is handled by individual states, there’s no federal mandate requiring employers to cover employment benefits for domestic violence survivors. But WomensLaw.org maintains a map where you can review legal information by state—workplace protections as well as other legal protections, like restraining orders, parental kidnapping, and suing an abuser. Since available benefits vary by state (along with eligibility and documentation requirements), it may take a bit of research as well as talking to your employer to find out what your specific options are.
Staying Safe at Work
If changing jobs isn’t an option for you, there are still things you can do to protect yourself at work after leaving an abusive partner. And, as survivors know, even changing jobs isn’t always enough to deter a fixated abuser, who will go to any lengths to try and ensure the survivor fails at getting free. That obsession can last for years, especially if they have children in common.
So, whether you’re changing jobs or not, taking precautions like letting your supervisor and office security know about your concerns, removing your number from the company directory, getting an escort to your car before or after work and ensuring protective orders mention your workplace are essential to help protect you and your career.
Ready to start over? “Write a Resume That Gets Noticed” with the tips in the linked article.
Looking for someone to speak with? Enter your location to find phone numbers for domestic violence experts in your area.
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