Unemployment Benefits for Victims of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

During the September meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development & Workforce Investment, Representative Samara Heavrin and I presented legislation that would allow those experiencing domestic, dating, sexual, or stalking violence to be eligible for unemployment benefits. I have filed this bill each session since 2019, and will be prefiling it again in October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The bill ensures that a survivor of domestic, dating, sexual, or stalking violence who leaves work, or is unable to work, or separated from employment due to circumstances directly relating to that violence will still be eligible for unemployment benefits when the survivor:

  • Fears violence at or en route to workplace
  • Wishes to relocate to another geographic area to avoid violence to themselves, their family, or co-workers
  • Finds it necessary for future safety and health of themselves, their family, or co-workers

Survivors will provide documentation: police, court records; sworn statement; statement from shelter worker, attorney, healthcare provider, clergy.

The benefits are charged against the state’s pooled account, not an employer’s account.

Employees of the KY Office of Unemployment Insurance will be trained on domestic, dating, sexual, and stalking violence and benefits applications.

The Secretary will send an Annual Report to LRC of the number of claims filed.

We heard powerful testimony from Tanya Thomas, Executive Director of the Springhaven Domestic Violence Program, Jillian Carden, Executive Director of Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services, Katie Showalter with the University of Kentucky. This legislation is the result of ongoing collaboration with the presenters, as well as the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, and the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

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