Employers must ensure that their employees are aware of the legal process for filing claims of discrimination. A private sector or state or local government applicant or employee who believes that his or her Title VII or ADA employment rights have been violated and wants to make a claim against an employer must file a “charge of discrimination” with the EEOC. For a detailed description of the EEOC charge process, including instructions for filing a charge, refer to the EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm or call 1-800-669-4000/ 1-800-669-6820 (TTY). A federal government applicant or employee who wants to make a claim against a federal agency must file an “EEO complaint” with that agency. For more information concerning enforcement procedures for federal applicants and employees, visit the EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov/federal/fed_employees/index.cfm.
Further, victims of domestic abuse may be covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The act applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employees become eligible if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employees 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons: (1) the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee; (2) placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care; (3) to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or (4) to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. Injuries sustained from acts of domestic violence may qualify for such a leave of absence.
Employers should also prepare how to respond with appropriate discipline, up to and including termination, when their own employees are perpetrators, particularly when they use employer resources or commit crimes of domestic violence while on company time. Like “drug-free workplace” policies, domestic violence workplace policies may require employees to report acts of domestic violence (such as an arrest for domestic violence or the issuance of a domestic violence protection order against an employee) even if they are committed outside the workplace.
Failure to take the necessary steps to protect the employee and his/her co-workers may lead to consequences for the employer. According to the Indiana Worker’s Compensation handbook, psychological injuries or mental stress injuries are potentially compensable. These include a physical injury caused by psychological trauma assuming that the stimulus or stress arises out of an in the course of employment; where there has been a physical worker’s compensation injury and the injured worker’s disability is prolonged or impairment is increased by accompanying psychological dysfunction, the full extent of disability and impairment may be compensable; and preexisting psychological shortcomings and weakness of the injured worker which are aggravated or precipitated by physical injury and trauma may be found to be compensable to the full extent of the aggravation of the pre-existing psychological dysfunction. Co-employee assaults are generally covered for the innocent victim of the assault.