City audit finds local domestic violence policies do not meet CA state requirements

Allen Zeng/Staff

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The city of Berkeley’s employment policies do not fulfill state requirements for victims of sexual violence and stalking, according to an Oct. 10 report from the city auditor.

In January, the city issued a domestic violence leave policy for employees, in which workers would be allowed to take extended leaves in cases of domestic violence. According to the audit, however, the city’s policy fails to make explicit that victims of sexual assault and stalking are covered. A press release from the office of the city auditor also states that the office is concerned about the training supervisors may be given surrounding these cases.

“Currently, staff may not know what options are available to them to help them be safe at work and maintain employment,” said Jenny Wong, city auditor, in an email. “Supervisors may not know the best practices to be supportive and not unintentionally cause additional harm by not knowing how to respond appropriately.”

The city’s January policy was an extension of other policies that date back to 2013, when the state of California prohibited employers from retaliating against employees for requesting accommodations surrounding domestic violence. In 2015, Berkeley updated its leave policy surrounding the issue. This year’s policy was a stand-alone version of that from 2015, according to the report.

Berkeley is “a step ahead” of many other cities in having a stand-alone policy dedicated to ensuring leave for victims of domestic violence, Wong said. She added that the city’s policy should be more comprehensive and clearly communicate the resources available to employees in the city.

Wong also said the policy should ensure supervisors in the workplace are trained to communicate with employees in ways that are sensitive to traumas — including domestic violence.

“The spirit of our recommendations are intended to make the policy more transparent and accessible to all employees who can benefit from it,” Wong said in the email. “Practices that are trauma-informed include using clear accessible language that everyone can understand, promoting a culture of safety and confidentiality, ensuring that staff have training to be non-judgmental and sensitive, and moving beyond stereotypes to be reflective of Berkeley’s diversity.”

Ben Klein is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc‏.