LOCAL VOICES: Bring home the battle against domestic violence

Nancy Neylon Executive Director Ohio Domestic Violence Network Linda Mitchell Executive Director Safe Harbour Domestic Violence Shelter
May 14, 2010


Nancy Neylon

Executive Director

Ohio Domestic Violence Network

Linda Mitchell

Executive Director

Safe Harbour Domestic Violence Shelter

There are compelling reasons the Ohio Senate should schedule hearings and support HB 167. As the bill sponsor, Rep. Dennis Murray, pointed out in his House floor speech before it passed the bill, under current Ohio law, landlords and employers have no obligations to victims of domestic violence or stalking. If a victim asks an employer for a modest accommodation like a changed parking spot or a different phone extension, there's no obligation to even consider the request. If the abuser shows up at her job, the employer has an unqualified right to fire the victim on the spot. If she returns to a rental apartment and asks the landlord to change the locks -- at the victim's expense -- the landlord has no obligation to even consider the request.

Rep. Murray summarized it best when he observed, "It is almost as if the world is conspiring against victims when we should be working together to support them." If HB 167 passes the Ohio Senate, Ohio would join 26 other states which have adopted legislation to provide protections to victims of stalking and domestic violence in the rental and/or workplace context.

In the workplace, HB 167 would require reasonable accommodations -- to be determined by the employer -- such as a different phone extension or parking space, and unpaid leave for emergencies (such as court hearings, emergency medical care, etc.) only when these issues cannot be handled outside of work hours. The limited leave would be unpaid, with as much notice as possible, and documentation would be required.

In the rental context, the law would allow landlords and tenants to act together to remove abusers from joint leases, let victims out of leases when they can no longer safely live in a rental property, allow victims to change locks at their own expense, and in public housing settings, allow victims to transfer if other safe units are available. Again, all relief would require documentation.

Why do it? Domestic violence and stalking are costly and consequential. The impact of domestic violence in the workplace can be incredibly costly -- both in dollars and in safety. It can be. But it doesn't have to be.

The protections in HB 167 can reduce the human and financial cost of domestic violence and stalking. And the can reduce those costs for victims and for landlords and employers. There are companies and landlords in Ohio already doing what HB 167 proposes. Many recognize the importance of providing reasonable requests for domestic violence and stalking victims on their own. Others respond positively to calls from victim assistance organizations advocating on behalf of a victim.

There have been concerns from landlords and employers in Ohio who feared runaway costs and increased liability -- fears that have not materialized in other states with similar laws. The overwhelming majority of their concerns were incorporated through amendments to HB 167. The give and take of law-making has been in play here, and good compromises have been reached making the bill worthy of Senate support.

If domestic violence abusers and stalkers can continue to control their victims by using the lack of protections currently in place to get victims evicted or fired, they win. Survivors and their children are safer; they are better able to get and keep jobs and housing and become or remain taxpayers.

HB 167 deserves hearings and support in the Ohio Senate. We hope the bill gets an opportunity to get the support it needs for passage. If passed, the bill brings a net gain to employers and landlords, and the safety of victims of serious crimes is enhanced. That would be what they call a win-win.