All Oregon employers are required to provide reasonable safety accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking (DVSAS). It is an unlawful employment practice for any Oregon employer to discriminate against an individual in hiring or any other employment decision because the individual is a victim of DVSAS.
What All Oregon Employers Need to Know Q. Which employees are covered by this law? A.
Any employee who is a victim of or at risk of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking is covered by the law, regardless of how long he or she has worked for the employer and regardless of how many hours per week the employee works. Q. How does the employer know if the employee is a victim? A.
An employer may grant an employee a safety accommodation based on the employee’s statement that he or she is a victim. However, the employer has the right to ask the victim for certification that the employee is a victim. Unless otherwise required by law, any documents provided as certification of the victim’s status must be kept confidential and may not be released without the express permission of the employee. Q. What sorts of documentation may the employee provide? A.
Certification can be a document from law enforcement or the courts, such as a police report or restraining order, a letter or other document from an attorney, counselor, domestic violence or sexual assault victim service provider, health care professional, or clergy member. Any of these forms of documentation is sufficient. Remember that any form submitted as certification of the victim’s status must be kept confidential. Q. What conduct constitutes unlawful discrimination under the law? A.
Under ORS 659A.290, it is against the law for any employer to:
- Refuse to hire an otherwise qualified individual because they are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- Fire, threaten to fire, demote, suspend, or retaliate against a worker because they are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
- Refuse to make a reasonable safety accommodation, or retaliate against a person who asks for a reasonable safety accommodation.
Q. What is a “reasonable safety accommodation”?
A. An employee who is a victim may request a reasonable safety accommodation to allow the employee to more safely continue to work. For instance, a safety accommodation might be a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, unpaid leave from employment, changed work telephone number, changed work station, installed lock, change in office policy, or any other adjustment to a job structure, workplace facility, or work requirement in response to actual or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
An employer must grant a request for a reasonable safety accommodation unless it would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer.
Q. What if the accommodation request would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer?
A. An undue hardship is something that would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. In determining whether something requires a significant difficulty or expense, many factors are considered, including the size and resources of the employer, the type of business operated by the employer, and the number, type and location of the employer’s facilities. These factors will be balanced against the nature and cost of the accommodation requested.
If the request would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the employer need not provide the accommodation. In this case, the employer should work with the employee to determine if there are other less burdensome methods of achieving the employee’s goal.
Q. How does the employer know if the accommodation requested is the safest option for the victim?
A. Because the victim knows the circumstances of his or her situation, he or she is usually best able to determine both what threats to safety exist as well as what steps can be taken to increase safety. Thus, when a victim employee makes a request for a reasonable safety accommodation, the employer should rely on the victim’s judgment.
Q. What penalties apply to employers for violations of the discrimination or reasonable accommodation protections?
A. The statute makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against or to deny a reasonable safety accommodation to any employee who is a victim.
Employees who believe the employer has violated the law may file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries or file a civil action at any time within one year of the illegal act. BOLI, or a court, may order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, including reinstatement, back pay, etc.
Posted February 2011
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