Restraining orders are vital for abuse victims 

This week’s question comes from Gina (name changed) from El Cerrito, who asks:

Q: “I have had a horrible time lately. My husband got into meth and then he got crazy and he hit me. Then he went through being sorry and I forgave him and, of course, it happened again. I had a bruise on my eye. I never thought that this would happen to me. I have to do something about it and I want to get some paper to keep him away from me and the kids. He is not a bad guy, but the drugs make him dangerous and I don’t want my kids to see me this way. What do I do? Can you help me?”

A: Gina, I am proud of you for making the decision to take action. An abuse situation has no chance of ever getting better when drugs and alcohol are involved. Although you love your husband, you have to think of yourself and your children. This is not an example that you want to set for them on how relationships work.

Domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against any of the following people: 1) A spouse or former spouse; 2) One who regularly resides (or formerly resided) in the household; 3) a person with whom the abuser is having or has had a “dating or engagement relationship”; 4) An individual with whom the abuser has had a child; 5) A close family member.

In California, you can make a request for a domestic violence restraining order that acts as a stay-away order for your home, office, school, etc. You can find Form DV-100 on the Contra Costa County Superior Court’s website under the forms section. (Most county courthouses have these forms online and usually in hard copy in the clerk’s office.) You don’t necessarily need an attorney to guide you through the process. Although I don’t handle these types of cases now, when I started practice more than 20 years ago, I did handle five or 10 for women and men who were suffering abuse.

A great resource is provided by the Contra Costa County Bar Association through its sponsorship of weekly domestic violence restraining order clinics in Pittsburg Superior Court, Richmond Superior Court and the Central County. The schedule can be found on the Bar Association’s website.

Under California law, you are entitled to take time off work to deal with your domestic violence situation without being disciplined or terminated. Labor Code Section 230 states that a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking is entitled to take time off from work to obtain relief (e.g., a restraining order or injunctive relief) or “to help ensure the health, safety or welfare of the victim or his or her child.”

An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations at work (safety measures such as changing your telephone extension or work station or installing locks) when requested for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and who discloses his or her status as such to the employer. While an employer has to help protect the employees from domestic violence, they are not required to undertake accommodations that would create an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations.

If you ask for time off, or workplace accommodation, an employer may ask for certification of your status as an abused person (a police report or your domestic violence restraining order) especially if you are seeking extensive safety accommodations.

Labor Code Section 230.1 provides that companies that have 25 employees or more cannot retaliate against a domestic violence victim for taking time off to obtain medical treatment or obtain services from a shelter, crisis center or domestic violence program. If your rights are violated by your employer and you are docked wages or terminated for taking time off, you are entitled to seek compensation for your lost pay, benefits and reinstatement, as well as any attorney fees expended in seeking relief.

Gina, I hope that this provides you with a resource that you can use to make a better future for yourself and your children.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to help@dolanlawfirm.com.

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