State weighs bill to protect domestic violence survivors from losing jobs

SAN DIEGO - Some California lawmakers are taking steps to prevent domestic violence survivors from losing their job because of their situation.

Local teacher Carie Charlesworth has gained national attention after she said she was fired from Holy Trinity School because of her dangerous ex-husband.

She said the Diocese of San Diego fired her from a teaching job due to her ex-husband's history of abuse and harassment. That included an appearance at her school last year, which prompted a lockdown.   

The scenario of a survivor losing her job is one the state could soon make illegal. In February, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced a bill to protect survivors from losing their jobs or being discriminated against at work.

Jackson cites a 2011 study that found nearly 40 percent of survivors in California reported either being fired or fearing termination because of their situation.

"We're further victimizing them. Not only have they been abused, we're removing them from their jobs as punishment for something they didn't do. That's morally reprehensible," said Jackson.

Some wonder if the laws go too far.

Elaine Kramer, a former small business owner, said managers should have a right to look out for employee welfare.

"I feel for the survivor, but as an employer, I have to protect my business and employees. I wouldn't want to get caught in the mess," said Kramer.

Pamela O'leary, a manager at the San Diego Family Justice Center, helps survivors talks to their employers about domestic violence issues.

"A lot of time, they have to go to court for [a] restraining order or to get some counseling. Many employers don't understand the dynamic of domestic violence," said O'Leary.

If the proposed state law passes, those issues cannot be grounds for a firing.

The bill has made it through the state Senate and just passed an Assembly committee.

A full vote could happen in the next few months.

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