Domestic Violence and the Workplace
Posted on October 17, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Employee Safety

Weekly HR – Workplace Violence

Domestic Violence and the Workplace

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and if you are wondering why this should be a human resource topic, here are some statistics:

  • Domestic violence is one of the leading cause of violence in the workplace with at least one in five employees having been the victim of domestic violence (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).
  • Homicide is currently the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries and it is the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace (Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)).
  • 75% of domestic violence victims face harassment from intimate partners while they are at work (Family Violence Prevention Fund).
  • 27% of all violent events in the workplace, including workplace shootings, are tied to some form of domestic violence (U.S. Department of Labor).
  • 96% of domestic violence victims experience problems at work due to abuse (American Institute on Domestic Violence).  This can include situations where the victim is either prevented from going to work by the abuser or they are absent due to injuries or mental issues caused by the abuse.  The time away from work can be broken down as follows:
    • 56% of victims are late
    • 28% of victims leave early
    • 54% of victims miss entire days
  • The CDC states that these particular absences cost employers at least $2 billion in lost productivity annually and employer health care costs related to domestic violence are more than $4 billion a year.
  • Employers may also face liability based on how they react to domestic violence in the workplace:
    • Employers may violate discrimination laws if they take adverse actions against victims. For example, an employer may face liability if a female victim of domestic violence is disciplined for being absent while another employee is not.  Or the employer takes adverse action against a female victim that uses FMLA or leave as an accommodation under the ADA for medical reasons related to domestic violence. 
    • Although OSHA does not have specific standards for domestic violence, they can cite employers under its “general duty clause,” requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, including any dangers related to domestic violence.

For these reasons and more, employers should have workplace violence prevention policies and a plan that specifically addresses domestic violence in the workplace. Your workplace violence policy should define domestic violence and provide information for recognizing signs of victimization.  Signs of domestic violence can include:

 

  • Frequent or unplanned leave
  • Change in job performance
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries, often attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents”
  • Dress that is inappropriate (i.e. long sleeves in the summer)
  • Sudden change of address
  • Isolation, unusual quietness, or avoiding others
  • An unusual number of phone calls or emails from a current or former partner, strong reactions to those calls, and reluctance to respond to phone messages
  • Disruptive personal visits to the workplace by present or former partner
  • Self-neglect
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Drug and alcohol dependence

In addition, the policy should provide response requirements and available information regarding assistance for an employee experiencing domestic violence.  Employers should also be certain that all supervisors are trained in how to handle these situations, which may include:

 

  • Providing a picture of the perpetrator to human resources
  • Identifying an emergency contact person
  • If absence is necessary, the employee should be clear about their return to work plan
  • Save threatening e-mail or voice-mail messages for future use in possible legal situations
  • Arrange for priority parking
  • Screen calls and have employee’s name removed from automated phone directories
  • Limit information disclosed by phone about employee
  • Relocate workspace to a more secure area or another site
  • Put the employee in contact with your city employee assistance plan and/or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Work with local law enforcement as needed and encourage employee to do the same
  • Arrange flexible work hours so employee can seek protection, go to court, look for new housing, arrange child care, etc.

Don’t let your workplace become another staggering statistic.  Be proactive in implementing the necessary measures to keep all your employees safe.  If your city needs sample policies or training on workplace violence or any other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist. 

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