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Is Family and Domestic Violence a Workplace Issue?



What to do when domestic violence enters the workplace


The potential risk to your organization increases when a victim of family and domestic violence decides to leave their home and come to work. Often, the workplace is the only location where the offender can locate the victim. This situation transfers the risk to the entire workplace, including parking lots. It is not just the victim who is at risk; anyone in the parking lot or in or near the building could be affected by the offender seeking their partner or ex-partner.

 

As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure the safety of your employees. The Centers for Disease Control has reported that a startling 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. In the U.S., twenty people per minute, on average, experience physical violence from an intimate partner, amounting to over ten million victims annually, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Family and domestic violence is indiscriminate, affecting individuals of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status.

 

The most significant contribution an employer can make in terms of a family and domestic violence policy is through education. Informing the victim about the support the employer can provide is crucial. For instance, asking, "How can we assist you? How can we ensure that you feel safe here?"

 

Remember, when an employee has a health issue, they usually inform the employer and request accommodation. In cases of domestic violence, the victim may feel extremely uncomfortable. The employer needs to take the initiative to educate every new employee during onboarding about the company's domestic violence policy and encourage them to speak up if they face any issues. By doing this, you communicate to your employees that you are ready to help, and they may feel more comfortable discussing their concerns or those of a coworker with Human Resources.

 

Unfortunately, not all organizations have a Family and Domestic Violence Policy. It is crucial that everyone within an organization, including Human Resources, Security, Legal, Janitorial Services, and housekeeping, inquire about the policy with upper management. By avoiding these discussions, we risk the safety of the organization, its employees, vendors, and guests. We want our employees to feel secure, seek help when needed, and not fear embarrassment or job loss. While we often hear about workplace violence, active shooters, active assailants, and hostile intruders, domestic violence in the workplace is less discussed. Why is it a hidden threat? It begins with the victim. Victims of domestic violence are dealing with a lot at home and face a complex decision-making process. Should they leave, stay, or try to work things out? The challenge of asking for help is immense. Victims fear judgment from coworkers, lack of promotion, or job loss. Employment is a critical factor for victims considering leaving their abuser. Amid all the emotional complexities, the victim must have a job to afford a new place to live or relocate to another town, city, or state. It is a complex family dynamic, and it is vital that they know their job is secure.

 

Like any company-wide initiative, executive buy-in and a comprehensive plan are vital. The workplace should have an open-door policy, so employees feel they have someone to talk to. If we integrate this into our ongoing educational training, employees may be more willing to discuss their concerns.

 

Safety should always be the top priority. Family and domestic violence flourishes in a culture of silence. Workplaces and communities can support victims, their children, and families by working together to create a safe work environment through awareness, education, and a commitment to safety and security as part of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.

 

About the Author


Joseph Paul Manley, M.A., is the Founding Principal and Lead Consultant for Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, a Massachusetts based Independent Security Consulting and Training practice. Paul helps organizations prevent incidents of employee violence with personalized security solutions based on thorough risk assessments, comprehensive training and crisis management strategies. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, a Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist (WVTS), a Certified Crisis Intervention Specialist (CCIS), and Verbal De-escalation Instructor,

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