Zero Discrimination Day: Bill to give new lease of life to domestic violence and sexual assault victims

Zero Discrimination Day: Bill to give new lease of life to domestic violence and sexual assault victims

Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, believed that “discrimination in the job market is a very important area where work needs to be done.” Not only women, but people of different ethnicities, religions, colors, races and gender are made to feel that they are inferior by way of gestures, casual remarks, complaints and common practices, such as overriding a person for a promotion or degrading someone’s character.

With the United Nations and its member countries realizing that discriminatory practices against a person of any gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, language, health, or economic and migrant status constitutes a risk to the well-being of an individual and for the country’s economy as a whole, March 1 is observed as Zero Discrimination Day the world over since 2014. Everyone has the right to live a life of dignity and those who are deprived of it are encouraged to share their stories inspiring others to bring a positive change in the society.

Bill for domestic violence survivors to prevent workplace discrimination

Recently, Bill HB 2661 was passed in the House of Representatives unanimously on February 7, 2018 for removing the discriminatory practices against women at workplace. The Bill was heard by the senate committee on February 19. There are two important provisions expected to help women in a vulnerable state.

  • It makes it unlawful for the employer to fire an employee or discriminate against her on grounds of past experience with sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • The bill also makes it imperative for the employer to provide safety accommodation to the victim in case she has put a request to that effect.

According to the lawmakers who proposed the bill, women subjected to domestic violence or sexual assault are vulnerable and need employment not only to sustain themselves but their children as well, in case they have. However, employers are wary of keeping such employees as they fear that the partner of such women might create problems at work or disrupt peace. Second, they feel that the affected women will not be able to perform as expected. According to David Ward from Legal Voice, a women’s rights legal advocacy group, the bill can provide further protection in the form of a “legal remedy” to those living with abusive partners. This would, in turn, bring stability and financial independence in their lives.

Under the existing Domestic Violence Leave Act of Washington, employees are granted full rights to take unpaid leaves to look after their mental health or sort legal issues stemming from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Unfortunately, in the Fatality Review Project, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence tracked women with a history of domestic violence and found that in seven of the nine cases, the victim was dependent on the partner financially. Under the new proposed law, an employer has the liberty to do thorough verification in order to provide safety accommodation and do so as per its ability. Nonetheless, giving the victims the much-needed respect and safety can be of immense help.

Discrimination affects mental well-being of women

Women usually bear the brunt of discrimination more than men. For example, at many places there is a huge gap in the pay scales of men and women for the same kind of work. An analysis of the federal labor statistics conducted by the Economic Policy Institute in 2017, median wage for women in America is about 15.9 percent less than the median wage for men. Invariably, this is equivalent to a woman earning 84 cents every hour, and a man earning a dollar during the same period.

Back in the 50s and the 60s, women were either working in low-paying, long hour assembly line jobs, or if they were educated, they could earn themselves a place as a secretarial assistant or an editorial assistant. Sexual harassment, long working hours and derisory remarks about looks were commonplace back then. They are pervasive even now as evident from the #MeToo campaign.

Most employers lack empathy for women who face any form of harassment back home. As a result, many capable young women feel inferior, inadequate and inept. This can make them feel helpless and unhappy, causing stress and other mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

If you or your loved one is displaying signs of deteriorating mental health, it is time to seek expert advice. The 247 Mental Health Helpline can help people struggling with a mental illness get credible information about the best mental health rehab center in the United States. You can call our 24/7 helpline (855) 653-8178 or chat online with a representative to know more.