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Opening Arguments

Firing the victim

Good story in the Indianapolis Star giving both sides of a difficult situation:

After her boyfriend beat her and threatened to kill her in October, Kristianne Rouster was issued a protective order that prohibited him from contacting her in person, on the phone or by text.

Because such orders routinely include the workplace, Rouster told her employer, Pitney Bowes.

Within a month, she was fired.

"They said they need to protect their employees," Rouster said of her supervisors. "They said they were scared."

Of course she wasn't fired precisely because of the protective order but because of a dangerous situation the company wouldn't have otherwise known about.

Rouster has filed a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination because domestic violence victims are overwhelmingly women. I'm not crazy about "disparate impact" claims, but it's hard not to be sympathetic to her plight. Imagine having to choose between protecting yourself and keeping your job. But the company isn't an obvious villain -- it certainly isn't wrong to worry about the safety of all employees.

Tough call, but I think I'm more on the side of the woman. The whole thrust of the evolution of the law in domestic violence cases (which Indiana is in the vandguard of in many ways) is to make the message stronger and stronger to the abusers that their actions aren't acceptable. Firing the potential victim of the abuse dilutes that message.


Tim Zank
Mon, 05/21/2012 - 10:33am

Tough call for Pitney Bowes, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. Once again proving Shakespeare was right.


Mon, 05/21/2012 - 3:23pm

It would seem to me that PB had an option that would have more fairly treated Ms. Rouster.  In describing employee benefits, their Indianapolis website says:


We offer flexible work arrangements such as part-time schedules, telecommuting, and shorter workweeks.  

She could work from home or from the library or from Aunt Nellie's house or all of these options and more  -  according to stated company policy.

So where are the ambulance chasers when  you need one?