Domestic Violence in the Workplace
While domestic violence seems like it would be confined to the home, its effects can reach beyond the home and into the workplace. Employers and employees should educate themselves on the best ways to reach out to the victims of domestic violence.
How Domestic Violence Enters the Workplace
The physical and emotional strain victims of domestic abuse experience can have a negative impact on their happiness and productivity at work. An employer might notice that a victim of domestic abuse has been late or absent from work, or has missed important meetings or deadlines. The victim may attend work with unexplained cuts or bruises, or request sick time too frequently. In such cases, employers should discreetly ask the employee if everything is alright at home, and perhaps refer the employee to professional counseling. Furthermore, federal and state laws prevent employers from penalizing the victims of domestic violence for missing work.
While a victim may leave home and go to a shelter or change her or his address, the abuser usually knows where the victim works. Abusers may stalk their victims to their workplaces and harass them there. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers are required to have adequate security at their offices and take other reasonable steps to prevent physical or verbal harassment in the workplace.
How to Protect Your Workplace and Your Employees Against Domestic Violence
Here are some general steps to take:
- Educate your employees regarding the signs and symptoms of domestic violence.
- Have human resources compile a list of local resources for domestic violence victims, including the names and contact information of local psychotherapists, urgent care clinics, family law attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and domestic violence shelters.
- Increase security, especially around the entrances and exits of the building, by placing security cameras close to doors and in the parking lot, issuing ID badges, and hiring security guards.
If one of your employees is clearly a victim of domestic violence:
- Make sure that employee has names and contact information for people that can help her.
- Have the employee designate a code word so that he can alert his coworkers to danger.
- Move that employee’s workstation away from first floor doors or windows.
- Organize a carpool so that employee is not alone on her commute to and from work.
- Be flexible with that employee’s time off – he may need it for court appearances, or to remove himself from the abusive partner.
For more information, see FindLaw’s section on domestic violence.