Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals


Summary of State and Federal Laws Related to Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Labor Law Section 593(1)

Amends the labor law to provide that in cases where a victim of domestic violence voluntarily separates from employment as a result of the abuse, separation may be deemed for good cause for the purposes of unemployment benefits.

Penal Law Section 215.14

Effective November 1, 1996, Chapter 331 of the Laws of 1996 made it a crime for employers to penalize an employee who, as a victim or witness of a criminal offense, is required or chooses to appear as a witness, consult with the district attorney, or to exercise his/her rights as provided in the Criminal Procedure Law, the Family Court Act, and the Executive Law. The law requires employers, with prior day notification, to allow time off for victims or witnesses to pursue legal action related to domestic violence.

Insurance Law Section 2612

In New York State, Chapter 174 of the Laws of 1996 prohibits insurance companies and health maintenance organizations from discriminating against domestic violence victims. It specifically outlaws designating domestic violence as a preexisting condition and denying or canceling an insurance policy or requiring a higher premium or payment where the insured is/has been a domestic violence victim. Current or past exposure to domestic violence is not in and of itself a pre-existing condition and should not be considered in underwriting health and/or life insurance. Impairments arising from domestic violence should be evaluated in the same way as those arising from other causes; that is, to determine if there is an increased risk of mortality or morbidity as a result of those injuries or health impairments.

Occupational Safety and Health Laws

State and federal occupational safety and health laws require employers to maintain a safe work environment. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has a "general duty" clause that requires employers to provide a safe and secure workplace free from recognized hazards. There is a corresponding similar state law provision.

State and federal laws related to firearms

Under New York law, a person who is the named respondent or defendant on an order of protection may have to surrender his firearms while that order is in effect. Under federal law, it is a crime for that same person to possess a gun while an order of protection is in effect (subject to a limited exception for law enforcement officers or military personnel who must carry guns).

Both New York State law and federal law make it unlawful, under certain circumstances, for a person convicted of a domestic violence-related crime to possess a gun. The federal law further prohibits a person convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms or ammunition. Law enforcement officers and military personnel are not exempt from this federal prohibition, and it applies no matter when the misdemeanor conviction occurred, even if prior to the amendment to the Gun Control Act, as long as the crimes were not expunged, set aside, or pardoned, or the person had his or her civil rights restored. Qualifying misdemeanors are those which involved "use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian, or by a person similarly situated as a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim."