A Louisiana House committee stalled legislation that would prevent employers from firing domestic violence victims for missing work.
The House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee deadlocked in a 6-6 vote on Thursday, keeping the measure stalled in committee and unable to get a full House vote.
Opponents said protections for victims of domestic abuse already exist and the bill oversteps in dictating Louisiana business policy.
Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, called his House Bill 545 a “safety precaution” for victims, describing his proposals as protecting victims from discrimination. The Louisiana Legislature has taken steps to protect victims, but Hunter said his bill was “the next logical step.”
Hunter’s proposal would ban companies from demoting, suspending, firing or taking other disciplinary action against victims of domestic violence who leave work to go to court or to seek medical or other treatment for the violence.
“I don’t want to see (victims) have a reliance on the abuser that is exacerbated by (their) lack of employment,” he said.
Under the proposal, victims would need to show employers proof of medical care or court documentation to legally be excused from work.
Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, made it clear that he does not condone any type of domestic violence, but he said he was concerned the bill was repetitive and would burden state business owners.
“As a business owner, I get this law and I’m thinking, ‘Here is another deal, someone trying to stick it to me it again,’” he said.
Bagley also questioned the relevance of the bill in Louisiana.
Hunter countered that the law would not burden employers, but instead protect businesses’ most valuable commodity: workers.
Mariah Wineski, with the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, backed HB545, which she called a “common and reasonable” protection for domestic violence victims.
Wineski said domestic violence victims in coalition shelters across the state have reported losing their jobs after missing work for medical appointments, legal meetings and counseling sessions. When it comes to the possibility of a burden, some employers have protections already written into company policy, she said.
Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, took Bagley’s concerns a step further and questioned the applicability of the law. The bill, he said, could create a slippery slope for employees looking to exploit their employers by wrongly filing employment discrimination claims.
State business associations stood in opposition to the bill, but none chose to speak to the committee. While a tie-breaking representative arrived late to the hearing, the bill did not undergo another vote because no committee members in opposition to the measure made the request.