Domestic Violence in the Workplace:
What happens in the home doesn't stay at home.
While historically considered a private and personal issue, awareness campaigns and public education about domestic violence have made it unacceptable for employers to ignore this serious problem. Regardless of whether victims are abused at home or at work, the abuse will ultimately affect their professional life. Or even jeopardize their safety at work and the safety of their co-workers.
Why should an employer intervene?
Domestic violence travels with a victim, from the home to the workplace. It often has a significant effect on a victim's performance in the workplace. It results in increased absenteeism, lower productivity and quality of work, and higher medical costs.
Many employers feel uncomfortable addressing the problem or feel that there is nothing they can do. And although it may not be easy, it is crucial to educate employees about the signs of domestic violence in order to create a work environment that encourages victims to seek help.
If you witness some of the following warning signs in a co-worker, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse:
• Bruises and other signs of impact on the skin, with the excuse of "accidents."
• Depression, crying.
• Frequent and sudden absences.
• Frequent lateness.
• Frequent, harassing phone calls to the person during work hours.
• Fear of the partner, references to the partner's anger.
• Decreased productivity and attentiveness.
• Isolation from friends and family.
• Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car).
Some simple things employers can do:
- Make a statement of support
- You could say, "No one deserves to be hit by someone else."
- Accommodate victims
- Adjust their schedule or workload, or if needed, their location to increase safety.
- Let victims know you are concerned
- You could say, "I am concerned for your safety. And there are resources in our organization and in the community that can help you. I am here for you when you need help."
- Be open-minded. Avoid judging people.
- Do not blame. Offer alternatives, not advice. Be patient. People will take action to leave an abusive situation when they are ready.
- Keep the information confidential
- Tell only those who absolutely need to know, such as building security, if there is a direct threat of violence at work.
- Talk in a quiet place
- A comfortable, safe atmosphere will convey a message of confidentiality, importance and seriousness.
- Respect an employee's decision not to disclose
- If an employee does not want to talk about the suspected abuse, no further questions or speculations should be made. If there are job-related issues such as reduced productivity or excessive absences, you may offer help by focusing on the performance problems in an empathetic and caring manner. Or you can refer him/her to appropriate company and community resources.
- Encourage them to have a safety plan. And give them our 24-hour hotline number at 216-391-HELP.