Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Steps for Employers to Take to Respond to Domestic Violence
At one time, employers may have thought of domestic violence as something that was not of their concern, a “private family matter” that should not be brought to work. We now know that ignoring domestic violence in the workplace doesn’t reduce its impact. The costs of unaddressed domestic violence in productivity, health care claims, and security issues are well known. When victims fear termination for disclosing domestic violence, all the negative impacts continue on in the workplace, and potentially dangerous situations can escalate. Strong workplace policies help employers create an environment where employees can come forward and seek assistance, allowing employers to respond appropriately to ensure that domestic violence does not impact employees, workplace safety or their bottom line.
As awareness of domestic violence has grown in recent years, employers and labor organizations are developing policies to address workers who may be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. Many have formal policies addressing domestic violence in the workplace. Through Executive Order, the State of Ohio has also adopted policies regarding domestic violence for all state employees.
Here are eight steps employers, employees, and unions can take in the work place to end domestic violence:
- Discuss with your CEO or management team the possibility of adopting principles that clearly communicate your commitment to establishing a workplace that is intolerant of domestic violence. Work with the leadership at your workplace to develop and implement comprehensive personnel policies that:
- Prohibit discrimination based on an employee’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, in hiring, promotion, and disciplinary action;
- Provides for reasonable leave to get medical care, pursue legal remedies, receive counseling services, etc.;
- Provides for reasonable accommodations regarding safety of employees who are victims of domestic violence, such as changing office locations, parking spaces, work shifts and phone extensions, alerting security and other personnel, etc.;
- Provides as much confidentiality as possible to employees experiencing domestic violence;
- Provides for “second chance” opportunities when it is discovered that performance issues are tied to victimization;
- Provide clear prohibitions and consequences for employees who engage in violence or stalking during work hours;
- Provide clear policies about the consequences of being legally determined to have committed domestic violence;
- Incorporate other strategies recognized to increase workplace safety, retain employees who are battered, and hold employees who are battering accountable. (See local and national resources listed under Web Resources at the bottom of this page.)
Human Resource and Employee Assistance Programs
- Determine whether your company’s employee assistance program includes domestic violence services or referrals. If it does not, speak with your human resources director or the appropriate manager about the possibility of expanding the program to address the needs of employees experiencing domestic violence and ensure that the EAP provider is well-trained in responding to trauma and safety issues related to domestic violence.
- Establish a training program for all supervisors and managers at your workplace to give them guidance on how to respond when an employee is a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence. Contact your local domestic violence shelter or program to setup training sessions addressing the dynamics of domestic violence and for educational materials on local domestic violence services.
Education for Employees
- Sponsor a workshop or a series of workshops on domestic violence. Invite a speaker from your local domestic violence program who can share information on local resources. Be aware that a presentation about abuse can be difficult for victims and survivors, but can also provide life-saving information.
- Distribute educational materials about domestic violence to all employees in your workplace. Display brochures and posters in public places that explain the issue and send the message that your workplace is a place which supports survivors and holds abusers accountable. Make victim safety information available in private places such as restrooms or in paycheck envelopes.
- Include an article about domestic violence in your company newsletter or bulletin.
Security in the Workplace
- Make sure security guards at your workplace have been trained to handle the special safety needs of battered women, who may be stalked or attacked at work. Ensure that there are clear policies for security workers to follow to respond to domestic violence cases in the workplace. Contact your local domestic violence program for vital information that should be considered.
- Set up a meeting between security personnel at your workplace and local law enforcement agencies to help facilitate appropriate information sharing and the development of collaborative working relationships.
For more information on addressing domestic violence in the workplace or for assistance please contact your local domestic violence program/shelter or you may contact the Ohio Domestic Violence Network at (614) 781-9651 or (800) 934-9840.
Guidance and model polices for employers are available at:
Family Violence Prevention Fund - http://endabuse.org/section/programs/workplace
Legal Momentum - http://www.legalmomentum.org/our-work/domestic-violence/
Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence - http://www.ccafv.org/work/business_new.php
Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence - http://www.caepv.org/