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Understanding Workplace Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, whether cohabitating or married.

It is also called intimate partner violence when it occurs by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship. All relationships can be involved such as heterosexual or same-sex relationships or former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can include violence against children, parents, or the elderly. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, or sexual abuse.

Domestic Violence does not just occur at a victim’s home but can carry over to their place of employment. There can be harassment or threatening phone calls, acts of stalking by someone while the victim is at work. All of this can affect a victim’s attendance and productivity at work.

The following are statistics on domestic violence in the workplace:

¯ 2 million American workers will experience at least one incident of workplace violence in the next 2 months.

¯ 28% of workplace violence incidents that happen to women come from a relative or personal acquaintance.

¯ 25% is the percentage of large corporations with a minimum of 1,000 employees who have reported at least one incident of domestic violence in the workplace within the last 12 months.

The effects of Domestic Violence on Productivity:

¯ 98% of victims of domestic violence state it is difficult to concentrate on work responsibilities.

¯ More than 33 days of home productivity, including the loss of school time for children, occurs because of domestic violence.

¯ 250,000 women will miss at least one day of work in the next year because of someone stalking them.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace costs:

¯ Almost 8 million paid work days are lost every year due to domestic violence, enough to fill more than 32,000 full time jobs.

¯ Employers’ cost for domestic violence in the workplace is approx. $1.8 billion loss in productivity.

¯ The CDC estimates that $5.8 million is spent on medical care and mental health needs due to the acts of domestic violence.

In the United States, 65% of workplaces do not have a workplace domestic violence prevention policy. Only 20% offer training on domestic violence. Changes need to be made to limit the costs and negative impacts of workplace domestic violence. No people should fear for their lives when they are at work.

Every employer needs to have a policy that addresses this issue. Policies should highlight that the acknowledgment that domestic violence does occur, how it will or does impact the workplace and that employers will do everything they can to help those experiencing it.

All workplaces should have comprehensive safety plans. Plans such as:

¯ Personnel available to assist employees with domestic violence issues. The contact information of said personnel should be posted throughout the agency.

¯ Enforce court orders of protection, especially those that prohibit the abuser from entering the victim’s place of employment.

¯ Security response including protocols for contacting law enforcement. Fellow employees should have knowledge on how to react to a perpetrator’s threatening or violent behavior.

¯Employees with known domestic violence issues should have individualized safety plans in place.

Trainings should be held so that supervisors will be able to recognize the signs of a domestic violence situation and how to respond. Trainings should include the promise of privacy and confidentiality. Supervisors should respond with sensitivity, communicate appropriately with a victim or a perpetrator and offer referrals.

Steps to be taken if a victim shares he or she is in an abusive relationship:

¯The supervisor should explain their concerns for the employee’s safety. Ask/offer information on changes that can be made to make them feel safer.

¯ Listen to the employee so they know you are there for them.

¯ Refer the employee to EAP.

¯ Advise security of a possible workplace safety issue. If needed accommodate the victim with secure parking, being walked to & from their car or a change in work area.

Employee Awareness is a very important component of workplace safety.

¯ Companies should post information on domestic violence and resources;

¯ Referrals should be made to domestic violence service providers or shelters.

¯ New employee orientation should include domestic violence education.

¯ Employees should be informed that NYS law bans insurance companies and health maintenance organizations from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. It cannot be a pre-existing condition; insurance companies cannot require a higher premium or cancel a policy because the insured is a victim of domestic violence.

Employees who are offenders should be held accountable.

¯ If the incident occurs while the employee is at the workplace then disciplinary action should occur per the company policy.

¯ If an employee assists a domestic violence perpetrator or protect an abuser from consequences, disciplinary action should occur.

Lastly, companies are responsible to make sure employees are safe whether they are the victim of a domestic violence situation or coworker who could be in danger due to a perpetrators possible reaction to a situation.

¯ Employers need to make it known that domestic violence will not be tolerated and that everything possible will be done to assist victims of abuse.

¯Upon being hired all new employees will be told and also given in written form the company’s domestic violence policy.

¯ All incidents of domestic violence that occur within the workplace will be documented and kept confidential.

¯ All information will remain confidential unless the employee gives written consent.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Chautauqua County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault have many awareness activities scheduled throughout the month. If you would like an educational in-service training regarding domestic violence in the workplace or more information on services, please contact Project Crossroads at 483-7718. For additional services, you may also contact The Salvation Army Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 252-8748, or Family Service of the Chautauqua Region at 488-1971.

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