CONCORD — Employers would no longer be able to terminate a worker or refuse to hire someone because he or she is a victim of domestic violence.
The House Wednesday preliminarily approved Senate Bill 390 on a 186-153 vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will review the bill before the House makes a final decision.
The bill prohibits an employer from failing to hire a job applicant, or from discharging, demoting or otherwise retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, harassment or sexual assault.
Under the bill, the Department of Labor could impose a civil fine against a company found to discriminate.
Supporters said the bill would prevent a victim of domestic violence from being victimized twice.
“These people did not ask to be victimized,” said Rep. Andrew White, D-Lebanon, “and they are certainly not asking to be victimized again by losing their job or not getting hired.”
But opponents argued employers would be forced to provide additional protections for other employees because the workplace is a prime target for disgruntled spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends.
“I’m baffled we’re sitting here and even seriously considering requiring employers to open their doors and let violence into the workplace,” said Gary Daniels, R-Milford. “We should not put employers in a position of choosing to protect their employees or becoming a criminal.”
He claimed passing the bill would put New Hampshire workers at risk and end an employer’s discretion on how best to protect employees.
No employer is going to come out and say he terminated an employee because he or she is a victim of domestic violence, Daniels said, noting there are plenty of other excuses under the state’s worker-at-will law.
White argued the law would not put an undue burden on an employer, saying the employer has plenty of discretion in protecting other employees by locking the doors or allowing the employee to work off-site.
There are financial implications for employees too, White said, noting many victims have to work to support their families.
“Where is that balance?” White asked. “All we are asking to do is tell New Hampshire employers it is not OK to discharge an employee who is a victim of domestic violence.”