When a worker is being abused at home, she or he is not the only one at risk. Advocates warn that the worker’s partner may target the person at work, so employers should include domestic violence in their workplace violence prevention policy.
Preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that, in 2011, nearly 2 out of 5 workplace homicides in which the victims were women were committed by a relative, often a spouse or domestic partner.
“It’s a productivity issue; it’s a health care issue; it’s an absenteeism issue; it’s a workplace safety issue,” Wells said.
CAEPV recently hosted a webinar on developing a domestic violence policy for small businesses that attracted 450 viewers. Wells pointed to the large number of attendees as evidence of an attitude change among employers from “Why should I care?” to “I know I should care about this, but what should I do?”
Employers can start by developing a policy dictating protocol for dealing with employees in a domestic violence situation. Wells suggested partnering with local police and domestic violence groups to learn about the issue and other resources. Supervisors are not expected to be counselors, but they should be able to refer an employee to local resources if necessary, Wells said.
She recommends providing all employees with a list of resources on their first day and revisiting the issue with an individual if abuse is suspected. The idea is to create a culture in which workers feel comfortable coming forward if they are facing domestic violence, Wells said, so make sure they know they will not be fired for saying something.
If an employee is being victimized, some workplace changes can help protect her or him. Examples from Wells include allowing a flexible work schedule to attend court appearances, removing the worker’s phone number from external websites and ensuring the person’s workspace is not in an isolated location.