New Jersey's progressive domestic violence laws allow victims to seek protection from a wide array of harassing and dangerous acts, including psychological and economic abuse. A recent ruling in the case of C.G v. E.G. has broadened the definition of economic abuse to include obstruction and interference with someone's employment. This ruling makes sense considering that many abusers engage in actions such as showing up at the victim's workplace without notice, constantly calling during work hours and even harassing the victim's employer and co-workers. This can result in the victim losing his or her job, thereby entrapping them in financial hardship regardless of whether or not they stay with their abuser.
In C.G v. E.G., the judge defined economic abuse as “including purposeful acts which a defendant perpetrates while intending that such acts either (a) impair or obstruct a plaintiff's actual or prospective job or job-related duties…” He further went on to explain that these acts were committed for the purpose of “controlling [someone], and/or pressuring or intimidating [someone] into submitting to [their] demands or wishes.” In C.G., these “purposeful” acts included constantly calling the plaintiff at her work, harassing the employer and his wife, and publicly accusing the plaintiff of having an affair with her employer.
The judge went onto state that “there are arguable few threats more potentially harassing and coercive than threatening one's livelihood or employment.” The idea that such actions are coercive, i.e, committed with the intent to force the victim's hand, is an incredibly important statement. Without the element of coercion, interference with one's job or job duties could just be seen as simple harassment, Between current and former intimate partners, however, such actions are typically used for the sake of control, especially when that victim is already experiencing other forms of domestic violence.
It should be noted that even without any other acts of abuse, coercion itself has been legally declared an act of domestic violence as of 2015. In August 2015, the New Jersey Legislature defined coercion as “threats made to unlawfully restrict another's freedom of action to engage or refrain from engaging in conduct…” The legislature detailed numerous behaviors that constitute coercion as an act of domestic violence, which include blackmail, false accusations, taking or withholding an action as an official, and bringing about damaging action such as a strike or boycott. Under the terms of this amendment, it makes practical sense to conclude that interference with one's current or prospective employment is indeed a form domestic violence -- one that may keep a victim trapped in a cycle of poverty and psychological abuse for many years. As you can see, domestic violence takes place in many forms, but there are legal steps that you can take in order to protect yourself. For more information on New Jersey's domestic violence laws and legal options such as filing for a restraining order, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.