Domestic Violence Settlement in Discrimination Case Could Signal Trend

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 25, 2015

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached a novel settlement with Bon-Ton Stores in a discrimination case brought by a domestic violence victim, which he calls a "model for other employers." Under New York state law, domestic violence victims are a protected class.

A manager at the department store chain sent a saleswoman home shortly after learning that her estranged husband had threatened her life. She was reportedly told to stay home for several days and check in again with her manager. When she did so, the saleswoman allegedly was told that she could not return to work until she obtained a protective order against her husband and gave a copy to the manager. The manager also reportedly gave no indication at first that her leave would be paid.

The victim told The New York Times that being sent home "made me feel like a victim all over again. It was like a slap in the face." It led her to contact the New York Attorney General's office and prompted this lawsuit.

While Bon-Ton eventually let the saleswoman return to work, the Attorney General's office found the employer had improperly discriminated against her for being a domestic violence victim.

Bon-Ton did not admit wrongdoing. But as part of the settlement, it will provide training to address discrimination against domestic violence victims to all of its New York employees and let them know they are protected against retaliation and harassment.

The company also agreed to change its policy so that future domestic violence victims are not required to obtain a protective order to continue in their job. In addition, it made a $5,000 contribution to the Erie County Sheriff's Department's Domestic Violence Unit as part of the agreement.