Safety Accommodations and Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking Handbook Statement: District of Columbia

Author: Amy E. Mendenhall, Marissa L. Dragoo, Corinn Jackson, and Judith A. Paulson, Littler

When to Include

District of Columbia employers should consider including this statement in their handbook to educate employees about the availability of safety accommodations for victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense and stalking, as well as the family members of victims, and to demonstrate their compliance with the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA).  The DCHRA applies to any employer that employs one or more persons in the District, and covers both employees and unpaid interns.

Customizable Handbook Statement

Safety Accommodations and Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Offenses and Stalking

Reasonable Accommodations

The Company will provide reasonable safety accommodations for employees [OPTIONAL: or unpaid interns] who are the victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking when such accommodation is necessary to ensure that person's security and safety, unless providing the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the Company's business operations.

For purposes of this policy, a covered family member includes a spouse or domestic partner; the parents of a spouse; children, including foster children and grandchildren; spouses of children; parents; brothers and sisters; the spouses of brothers and sisters; a child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; and a person with whom the employee shares or has shared, for not less than the preceding 12 months, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship as defined in the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992.

Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • A transfer;
  • Reassignment;
  • Modified work schedule;
  • Leave of absence;
  • Change in work telephone number;
  • Change in work email address;
  • Change in work station;
  • Installed locks;
  • Assistance in documenting domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking that occurs in the workplace; or
  • The implementation of another safety procedure in response to actual or threatened domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking. 

Confidentiality

The Company will maintain the confidentiality of all information that is provided by the employee and related to an employee's status as a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking.  The Company will not disclose such information unless it is:

  • Requested or voluntarily authorized in writing by the employee;
  • Ordered by a court or administrative agency or otherwise required by applicable federal or state law;
  • Provided to a law enforcement agency;
  • Necessary to protect other employees from imminent harm; or
  • Necessary to provide a reasonable accommodation for the victim (and then, only to the extent necessary).

The Company will notify the employee in the event of a disclosure made for one of the reasons described above. 

No Retaliation or Discrimination

The Company will not retaliate or otherwise take unlawful discriminatory action against an employee because the employee:

  • Attended, participated in, prepared for or requested leave to attend, participate in or prepare for a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding relating to domestic violence, stalking or a sexual offense of which the employee or employee's family member was a victim, including meeting with an attorney or law enforcement officials;
  • Sought physical or mental health treatment or counseling for domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking of which the employee or employee's family member was a victim; or
  • Experienced a disruption at the workplace or a threat to employment related to domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking of which the employee or employee's family member was a victim.

Employees may also be entitled paid time off for reasons related to being a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense or stalking under the Company's Sick and Safe Leave policy [or insert name of applicable policy] and should consult that policy and/or Human Resources [or insert name/contact details for appropriate company representative or department] for additional information.

Employees who have questions about this policy or who wish to request a reasonable accommodation under this policy should contact their Human Resources representative [or insert name/contact details for appropriate company representative or department].

Guidance for Employers

  • The District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA) prohibits Washington, DC, employers from discriminating on the basis of a person's status as a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking.  The DCHRA also imposes certain affirmative obligations upon employers, including maintaining employee confidentiality and providing reasonable safety accommodations.
  • Employers may not take any unlawful discriminatory action against:
    • An employee who attended, participated in, prepared for or requested leave to attend, participate in or prepare for a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding relating to domestic violence, stalking or a sexual offense of which the employee or employee's family member was a victim, including meeting with an attorney or law enforcement officials;
    • An employee who sought physical or mental health treatment or counseling for domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking of which the employee or employee's family member was a victim; or
    • An employee who experienced a disruption at the workplace or a threat to his or her employment related to domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking of which the employee or employee's family member was the victim.
  • The DCHRA defines "family member" for purposes of the domestic violence, stalking and sexual abuse protections as: a spouse or domestic partner; the parents of a spouse; children, including foster children and grandchildren; spouses of children; parents; brothers and sisters; the spouses of brothers and sisters; a child who lives with an employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; and a person with whom the employee shares or has shared, for not less than the preceding 12 months, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship as defined in the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992.
  • The DCHRA prohibits employers from disclosing any information related to an employee's status as a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking that is provided to the employer by the employee. There are a few exceptions to this prohibition, however. An employer is allowed to disclose this information when: (1) requested or voluntarily authorized by the employee in writing; (2) ordered by a court or administrative agency or otherwise required by law; (3) provided to a law enforcement agency; (4) necessary to protect other employees from imminent harm; and (5) necessary, and only to the extent necessary, to provide a reasonable accommodation for the victim. The employer must notify an employee in the event of a disclosure.
  • An employer must also make a reasonable accommodation for an employee who is the victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking when the accommodation is necessary to ensure the person's security and safety, unless providing the accommodation would result in an undue hardship on the employer.
  • "Reasonable accommodation" for purposes of the domestic violence protections includes a transfer; reassignment; modified schedule; leave; changed work station; changed work telephone or email address; installed lock; assistance in documenting domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking that occurs in the workplace; or the implementation of another safety procedure in response to actual or threatened domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking.
  • "Undue hardship" includes any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as the size of the employer, its financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
  • Employers should also be aware that District of Columbia employers are required to provide paid sick and safe leave to employees who meet certain eligibility requirements and that employees may also be allowed to use safe leave for reasons related to being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Develop procedures to ensure information connected to an employee's request for an accommodation or status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking is kept confidential unless the law requires disclosure. Such procedures should include a method to notify an employee when information must be disclosed in accordance with the law.
  • Train human resources, supervisors and managers on the procedures for identifying and responding to reasonable accommodation requests from qualified employees and applicants for employment and on how to properly document such requests.
  • Contact the police and legal counsel for advice regarding appropriate security measures if any concerns exist that a perpetrator of domestic violence may pose a threat to employees or the workplace.

Additional Resources

Paid Sick and Safe Leave Handbook Statement: District of Columbia