Senate Bill 400, sponsored by Hannah-Beth Jackson, was approved Wednesday evening by a vote of 34-1. The dissenting vote was cast by Senator Ted Gaines.
“SB 400 prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who suffer domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking,” said Jackson. “And would allow employees to request reasonable accommodation to ensure their safety in the workplace.”
Former teacher Carie Charlesworth has become the face of the bill in recent months and has worked with Senator Jackson to push for passage.
In January, Charlesworth was fired from her teaching job after her estranged husband showed up at Holy Trinity Catholic School spurring a lockdown. Charlesworth had informed the school he had threatened her.
“When I first was put on leave from work I did a lot of research on domestic violence in the workplace,” said Charlesworth. “I found the bill and it was very exciting to me, because I thought OK this is exactly what I need right now.”
It’s possible because of a “ministerial exemption” her job may have still been able to fire her, regardless of the bill. The school is private and associated with a religion. However, Charlesworth believes school leaders would have thought twice if the bill had been in effect.
“I think it would have given them maybe more pause to think about what they could have done different as opposed to just getting my kids and myself out of the school environment.”
Regardless, Charlesworth is certain the bill will help other victims of domestic violence who are afraid for their futures.
“If there is a fear factor or a safety threat they feel they need to discuss,” said Charlesworth. “They’re going to feel comfortable that they can go to their employer and talk to them about it without the fear of losing the way they provide for their families, the way they provide for themselves.”