[author: Deborah M. Tharnish]
On October 12, 2012, the EEOC issued guidance titled "Questions and Answers: The Application of Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act to Applicants or Employees who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking." The guidance recognizes that while federal EEOC laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination against those who experience domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, employer action and reaction to these circumstances may implicate Title VII and the ADA. And because there is no specific prohibition of discrimination on these bases, the possibility of illegal discrimination may be overlooked.
The guidance seeks to educate employers and employees by providing examples of employer decisions that may violate Title VII and the ADA in their treatment of those who experience domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The examples range from incidents of treatment of employees who complain of sexual assault or stalking by co-employees both at the work place and away from the work place, to an employment decision to terminate an employee who was subjected to domestic violence because the employer did not want the "drama" that comes from victims of domestic violence, to possible violation of the ADA in the treatment of domestic violence victims who suffer from depression.
Employers should train managers to recognize the possibility that dealing with employees and applicants who experience domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking may implicate Title VII or the ADA. A recognition of this fact should help ensure that the employer properly considers appropriate employment action when dealing with these situations.