Each year, somewhere between 1 and 4 million American women are assaulted by an intimate partner. That may sound like a personal problem, but domestic violence is clearly a business issue. The impact of that violence spills over into the workplace in the form of increased absenteeism, high insurance costs for medical claims, lower productivity, and the relative risk to other employees if the batterer decides to attack his partner at work. In fact, the Department of Justice reports that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace every year, and more than 70 percent of employed victims report that their abusers have harassed them at work. Perpetrators cause over 60 percent of their victims to be either late to and/or absent from work. If the victim has left the abuser and relocated to a shelter or to an address he doesn’t have, he still knows where the victim works and will often try to find her there.
What should you do if either suspect or have clear evidence that one of your employees is a victim of domestic violence? It may be tempting to simply look the other way or, as many companies have done, terminate the employee because of substandard performance if the situation is affective the quality of her work. But that doesn’t do anything to help the victim avoid serious injury or death; it also doesn’t do anything to preserve your corporate investment in the employee’s training and work.
A better strategy is to help. One way is to provide all employees with information about domestic violence. Even if you are unaware of any specific situations, this will let them know you are concerned for their safety and you will support them if they have a problem.
If you identify a domestic violence victim, work with her (or him-men can be victims of domestic violence as well) to create a safety plan. Safety planning benefits the victim, your company and the community. By supporting the victim and developing a plan to make her less vulnerable at work, the entire workplace becomes safer. At the same time, you send a clear message to the abuser and to the community at large that domestic violence will not be tolerated or ignored.
For information on how to educate yourself and your employees on the dynamics of domestic violence and safety planning, plus referrals to resources in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or http://www.ndvh.org.