STAND. COM. REP. NO.2023
RE: S.B. No. 2438
Honorable Robert Bunda
President of the Senate
Twenty-First State Legislature
Regular Session of 2002
State of Hawaii
Your Committees on Health and Human Services and Labor, to which was referred S.B. No. 2438 entitled:
"A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO HAWAII VICTIMS' ECONOMIC SECURITY AND SAFETY ACT,"
beg leave to report as follows:
The purpose of this measure is to prohibit employer discrimination against actual or perceived victims of domestic or sexual violence but also recognize legitimate employer interests related to the safety of all persons in the workplace.
Your Committees received testimony in favor of this measure from the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline, the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Na Keiki Law Center/Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, a member of the Hawaii State Battered and Formerly Battered Women's Caucus, and three private citizens.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission supported the intent of the measure.
Testimony in opposition to the measure was received from the Department of Taxation. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations had concerns with the impact the measure might have on the receipt of federal funds and the Tax Foundation submitted comments.
Your Committees find that the measure:
(1) Enables a victim of domestic or sexual violence to take paid or unpaid leave, seek medical treatment, obtain abuse-related services, counseling, relocate, or take legal action;
(2) Upholds the provisions of collective bargaining agreements or employment agreements that contain equal or better benefits or rights regarding protection from domestic or sexual abuse;
(3) Prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual abuse;
(4) Enables a victim of domestic or sexual abuse to obtain unemployment insurance benefits if the victim suffers a loss of employment status as a consequence of the abuse;
(5) Provides training for unemployment insurance claims reviewers and hearings officers to understand and recognize symptoms and patterns of domestic or sexual abuse; and
(6) Establishes a workplace safety tax credit of up to forty per cent of the costs associated with domestic and sexual violence safety and education training as an incentive for employers to help prevent domestic and sexual abuse.
Your Committees find that domestic violence crimes account for approximately fifteen per cent of total crime costs in the United States each year. Violence against women has been reported to be the leading cause of physical injury, having a devastating impact on women's physical and emotional health and financial security.
Employees in the United States who have been victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking too often also suffer associated adverse consequences in the workplace as a result of their victimization. In fact, seventy-four per cent of harassment of women in the work place is because of domestic violence.
According to a 1998 report of the U.S. General Accounting Office, between one-fourth and one-half of domestic violence victims surveyed in three studies reported that the victims lost a job due, at least in part, to domestic violence. Women who have experienced domestic violence or dating violence are more likely than other women to be unemployed, suffer from health problems affecting their employability and job performance, report lower personal income, and rely on welfare. Abusers frequently seek to control their partners by actively interfering with their ability to work, including preventing their partners from going to work, harassing their partners at work, limiting the access of their partners to cash or transportation, and sabotaging the child care arrangements of their partners. More than one-half of women receiving welfare have been victims of domestic violence as adults and between one-fourth and one-third reported being abused in the last year.
Ninety-four per cent of corporate security and safety directors at companies nationwide rank domestic violence as a high security concern. Forty-nine per cent of senior executives recently surveyed said domestic violence has a harmful effect on their company's productivity, forty-seven per cent said domestic violence negatively affects attendance, and forty-four per cent said domestic violence increases health care costs. Employees, including individuals participating in welfare to work programs, may need to take time during business hours to obtain orders of protection, seek medical or legal assistance, counseling, other services, or look for housing in order to escape from domestic violence.
Your Committees are aware of the concerns raised by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations regarding the issue of whether the federal government would allow unemployment benefits, which are funded by moneys provided under a state and federal partnership, to be paid to victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Your Committees are also aware that the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is currently seeking clarification on this issue and would like to keep this measure moving in the legislative process to ensure that a legislative vehicle will be available if federal approval is granted.
Your Committees have amended the measure by making the workplace safety tax credit nonrefundable and by making a technical, nonsubstantive amendment for the purpose of style.
Your Committees hope that although this measure's passage has been expedited in order to ensure that ample time is provided to make the internal lateral deadline, subsequent committees will heed the concerns of all parties and a legislative product that is amenable to all concerned parties will result.
As affirmed by the records of votes of the members of your Committees on Health and Human Services and Labor that are attached to this report, your Committees are in accord with the intent and purpose of S.B. No. 2438, as amended herein, and recommend that it pass Second Reading in the form attached hereto as S.B. No. 2438, S.D. 1, and be referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the members of the Committees on Health and Human Services and Labor,
BOB NAKATA, Chair
DAVID MATSUURA, Chair