The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a guide to employers on dealing with victims of domestic violence and similar related crimes. Dating and domestic violence can be committed by either gender, and the victims are not always women. The stereotypical target of stalking is female, however. And when employers make decisions based on sex-based stereotypes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is likely to come into play. Discriminatory attitudes may arise if an employer treats the victim of a random crime more leniently than a domestic violence victim, or if leave policies are administered in a discriminatory way. An employer may also view a female victim with sympathy, but a male victim with scorn, since men are not supposed to be subject to domestic abuse.
In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act can be implicated. The EEOC’s guidelines remind employers that regarding someone as disabled is a form of discrimination. Further an employee who is disfigured or depressed as a result of a sexual assault, for example, is likely a disabled employee entitled to a reasonable accommodation, if needed, or protection from harassment in the workplace.
The examples cited by the EEOC are helpful reminders of how lingering attitudes minimizing sexual predation and shunning mental illness can create discriminatory job problems.