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  • Vicarious Trauma
  • Volume 9 | Winter 2008

legislative updates

The following are summaries of new or pending statutes, regulations or other significant policy involving domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and/or stalking that we hope will be useful to practitioners. If you know of legislation that you would like to be included in future newsletters please send them to Rebecca Henry at Rebecca.Henry@americanbar.org.

New Congressional Resolution “Expressing the support for the enacting of joint custody laws for fit parents, so that more children are raised with the benefits of having a father and a mother in their lives.”

Last October, Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) submitted H. Con. Res. 241 in the House. Noting that 32 states and the District of Columbia already have some presumption for joint custody, the Resolution urges states to pass more laws in favor of joint custody. The House Resolution cites a number of factors tending to show that children generally benefit from joint custody between parents who are divorced, separated or never-married. The House also relies on facts tending to show that parents, particularly biological fathers, are more likely to stay actively involved in their children’s lives and continue to pay child support when they have joint custody of their children. The final resolution urges that states pass joint custody laws, “careful to protect victims of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, children from potential kidnapping by a parent.” The Senate counterpart to the Resolution, S. Con. Res. 59, was introduced last December by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI). It relies on much of the same factual background, but does not contain any similar provision considering instances of abuse.

H. Con. Res. 241 and S. Con. Res. 59 are both available at www.thomas.gov

New York State Governor Signs Workplace Domestic Violence Executive Order

Source: NY Governor’s Office

Governor Eliot Spitzer signed an Executive Order requiring that all state agencies adopt comprehensive “Domestic Violence and the Workplace” policies that address the significant health and safety issues associated with domestic violence.

Executive Order 19 requires all state agencies to adopt policies relating to matters including education and training of employees on domestic violence awareness and prevention; fair personnel policies responsive to the needs of domestic violence victims; creation of workplace safety plans; and accountability measures to punish those who use state resources to commit acts of domestic violence.

The signing was announced at the first meeting of the Domestic Violence Advisory Council under the Spitzer Administration, which was established to make recommendations about the state’s response to domestic violence, and facilitate coordination among state agencies.

The state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), charged with improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence, has developed a model policy for agencies to use as a guide to formulate their own policies, and will provide assistance to agencies throughout the implementation phase.

Click here to read the Executive Order

Additional information is available at http://www.opdv.state.ny.us

Renewed Congressional Effort to Extend Employment Rights to Victims

Source: Congresswoman Roybal-Allard’s office

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA, 34) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX, 2) introduced the Job Protection for Survivors Act, the Insurance Non-Discrimination for Survivors Act, and the Unemployment Insurance for Survivors Act on October 31, 2007. The measures would give survivors of domestic violence greater economic stability and create a federal standard for employers to address the effects of domestic violence on employees.

The three bills are based on the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act, which Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has introduced in every Congress since 1996, to promote financial security for survivors of domestic violence. In 2005, one of the provisions of the SAFE Act, the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses to domestic violence was included in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA Reauthorization). These three bills incorporate the remaining individual provisions of the SAFE Act, with some important changes in order to more fully meet the needs of both survivors and employers.

Under these bills, victims of domestic violence who are forced to leave a job because of the abuse would be eligible for unemployment benefits. They would also be able to take unpaid leave from work without the fear of being fired to address immediate needs such as obtaining legal assistance, medical care or to find a safe place to live.

Click to read the full text of each bill:

Job Protection for Survivors Act (H.R. 4015)

Insurance Non-Discrimination for Survivors Act (H.R. 4014)

Unemployment Insurance for Survivors Act (H.R. 4016)