Survivors of domestic violence should have the right to move on with their lives, to work and live in peace. But the threats, the stalking, and the violence which occurred throughout their relationships, often continue long after the Court has issued an Order for Protection. To truly protect themselves and their children, survivors sometimes have no choice but to terminate leases and move, leave their jobs, and flee from everything familiar to them and their children.
With the passage of HB 563 on July 1, 2019, Florida became the 42nd state to allow victims of domestic violence to qualify for unemployment benefits when they must terminate their employment due to violence committed against them by their loved ones. Unemployment compensation is a temporary wage-replacement benefit for workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Survivors of domestic violence may voluntarily leave work, but still receive reemployment assistance if they can show that leaving that job was a direct result of the circumstances related to their victimization. To qualify, survivors must provide evidence that domestic violence occurred and they must reasonably believe it likely they will be victimized again at, or in transit to or from, their place of employment. The survivor is expected to make a reasonable effort to preserve her/his/their employment by transferring to another job site, unless it is clear that doing so would be a futile effort to curb the violence. Employers are not charged for the payment of benefits directed to these survivors, so employers are not negatively affected by this legislation.
Quite often, it is financial uncertainty which keeps victims of domestic violence in an abusive situation. Arming victims with the financial ability to cut and run will save lives.
Lisa G. Goldberg, Supervising Attorney, Family and Domestic Violence Law, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida
Mindy Jones, Senior Attorney, Family Law, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida