The Workplace and Domestic Violence

Nearly one third of US women report having been the victim of sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lifetime. This staggering statistic indicates the high likelihood that one or more of your employees has been victimized. Business owners need to understand the impact that domestic violence has on their employees, their workplace, and their bottom line.

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Domestic violence (DV) creates a ripple effect. It impacts every part of a victim’s life, including work. Employers must take steps to create a safe environment and understand their responsibilities when an employee falls victim to DV. It is important to create policies that aid and protect the victim and the business and to understand the company’s role in the situation.

Laws

Laws are in place in most states allowing the victim to maintain their job security while dealing with DV and its aftermath. Allowances must be made by law so that a victim can receive the proper medical and psychological care, and deal with any legal issues. The following is the North Carolina law concerning this:

NORTH CAROLINA: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-5.5 & § 95-270(a).

An employer is prohibited from discharging, demoting, disciplining, or denying a promotion to an employee who takes “reasonable time off” from work to obtain or attempt to obtain a protective order or other relief under the state’s domestic violence law. An employee who is absent from the workplace shall follow the employer’s usual leave policy or practices; if the employer generally requires advance notice of absences, an employee must provide advance notice “unless an emergency prevents the employee from doing so.” An employer may require the employee to provide documentation showing the reason for the employee’s absence

74% of female victims report being harassed by their partners while working. There is a restraining order that an employer can get to protect the employee. The employer applies for it on behalf of the employee to safeguard them from violence, harassment, or stalking while at work. The law for North Carolina is as follows:

NORTH CAROLINA: N.C. Gen. § Stat. 95-261.

An employer may seek a civil no-contact order on behalf of an employee who has been subject to unlawful conduct, such as physical injury or threats of violence, at the workplace. Prior to seeking such an order, the employer must consult with the employee who is the target of the violence to determine whether the employee’s safety would be jeopardized by participating in the process. An employee who is the target cannot be disciplined based on their involvement or lack of involvement in the process.

Policy

In addition to following the letter of the law concerning victim’s rights, it is important to have a DV policy in place. Taking measures to do this, before there is a problem, will ensure your company is prepared should a situation arise.

Recommendations for a thorough policy:

· Abide by all existing laws covering victims of DV.· Establish a confidential system for reporting domestic or sexual violence.· Carefully define domestic and sexual violence. Broad is better. Consider including same-sex and dating relationships.· Keep resources and referral information current and post in highly accessible areas.· Adjust schedules and provide paid and unpaid leave for medical care, counseling and legal assistance.· Ensure workplace safety. Assess parking arrangements, enforce civil protections, exercise the right for an employer restraining order, screen phone calls and visitors, and develop a safety plan.· Enforce a strict policy on employees who threaten or abuse on work time or with company resources.· Choose health insurance plans that do not discriminate against physical or sexual abuse.
Employer Liability

It is imperative to understand the company’s role in protecting employees. If management ignores threats and does not adequately provide safeguards to ensure employee safety, the company can be held liable. In 2008, an associate at Old Navy in the Chicago area was shot and killed by her abuser at work. The parent chain, Gap, Inc., was sued for not taking the proper precautions for the employee’s safety. The gunman was able to enter through an unlocked employee door. Also, after the perpetrator entered the store the management failed to act, despite previously being made aware of the threats.

Missed work is a problem with victims of DV. Over one million women are stalked each year, and a quarter report missing work because of it. In 2000, 36% of rape and sexual assault victims lost more than ten days of work after being victimized. While missed work is usually unavoidable in these situations, having a comprehensive policy to help victims may minimize time off. This is another reason why victims must feel safe and supported at work.

Show your employees that you value them, and their well-being, by explaining the company’s stand on domestic violence. Outline your policies and remind them that they can always reach out to management if they have a problem with DV or sexual assault. Understand the laws and how your company can help an employee that is a victim. Providing workers with information and education will not only help any victims, it will also show any abusers that their behavior is unacceptable socially, and by law. Take a stand against domestic violence for your employees, their co-workers, and their families.

Sources:

Domestic Violence Statistics. (2012) Domestic Violence Statistics. retrieved November 1, 2012.

https://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/

Employment rights for victims of domestic violence. (n.d.) Legal Momentum. retrieved November 1, 2012.

https://www.legalmomentum.org/our-work/domestic-violence/

State Law Guide: Workplace Restraining Orders. (August 2010). Legal Momentum.

retrieved November 1, 2012.

https://www.legalmomentum.org/assets/pdfs/workplace-restraining-orders.pdf

The Facts on the Workplace and Domestic Violence. (n.d.) Futures Without Violence. Retrieved November 1, 2012.

https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/Children_and_Families/Workplace.pdf