Baby Reindeer And Employee Protections For Victims Of Stalking Or Domestic Violence

Ford & Harrison LLP


FordHarrison is a labor and employment firm with attorneys in 29 offices, including two affiliate firms. The firm has built a national legal practice as one of the nation's leading defense firms with an exclusive focus on labor law, employment law, litigation, business immigration, employee benefits and executive compensation.
Baby Reindeer on Netflix is the dark, fictionalized account of how one man's stalker forever changed his life. It tells the story of a struggling London comedian, Donny Dunn, who meets a woman...
United States Employment and HR
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Baby Reindeer on Netflix is the dark, fictionalized account of how one man's stalker forever changed his life. It tells the story of a struggling London comedian, Donny Dunn, who meets a woman, named Martha, in a pub where he works as bartender. Martha then begins harassing and stalking Donny, his friends and his family. As Donny deals with (and, at times, enables) Martha's conduct, he is also on a painful journey of self-discovery about his own sexuality, drug abuse, and sexual assault. It is not an easy watch for sure. In fact, it was too dark for me to finish, and I had to take a “binge break”. But ever since I watched the first few episodes, I've been thinking about how employment laws address stalking and/or domestic violence situations involving employees.

What happens in the privacy of an employee's own home or after hours has always been something employers traditionally try to stay away from. However, in recent years, numerous state laws have come into effect designed not only to protect employees who are themselves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking but those who are protecting family members who are victims. These laws vary widely from state to state. Some states, like California, provide robust protections. While other states, like Texas, provide virtually none.

Generally these laws fall into four different categories: 1) anti-discrimination protection, prohibiting certain employers from discriminating or retaliating against victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking in certain terms and conditions of employment; 2) reasonable accommodations (for example, allowing employees to change their work schedule, work phone number or job assignment or changing and installing new locks or other safety measures); 3) leave or other time off for court appearances, to obtain mental or physical health care, to obtain services from a victim services organization, or to relocate; 4) unemployment insurance (most states will not disqualify an employee from unemployment if they had to quit their job due to domestic violence).

Should you become aware that an employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, here are some best practices:

  1. Confirm that the employee is safe. If there is an immediate danger to the workplace, always call 9-1-1.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the laws in your state to ensure you are providing the employee what they are entitled to under the law;
  3. Determine if there are any federal protections (such as FMLA) which may apply;
  4. Engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if they have any specific needs that you can assist with as their employer;
  5. Be compassionate but also remember that you are their employer, not their therapist, pastor, family or friend.
  6. Be non-judgmental. Relationships between the abused and their abusers can be very complex. Do not judge the employee's choices (if they choose to share them).
  7. Refer employee to your Employee Assistance Program for any benefits it may provide; and
  8. Treat the issue as confidential, sharing only those who “need to know”.

Dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking can be a stressful and unsure time for an employee. Following these best practice can make this time much easier for the employee.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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