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Violence in the Workplace
Homicide is the #1 leading cause of death for women on the job,
and 20% of those were murdered by their partner at the workplace. - Bureau of
Labor Statistics 1993
"A woman seated behind her computer
in a downtown office building was shot to death Tuesday morning by her estranged
husband, who then turned the gun on himself. Jennifer Smith, 32, died within minutes.
Three hours earlier, Jennifer had reported to police that her husband had violated
a protection from abuse order for the second time in 10 days. Police reported
that John Smith had purchased the bullets just moments prior at a store located
down the street from Jennifer's workplace."
The scenario above is
fictional, but unfortunately real news reports just like it play each year in
the US. Domestic violence doesn't stay home when its victims go to work. It can
follow them, resulting in violence in the workplace. Or it can spill over into
the workplace in other ways: threatening phone calls, stalking, absences because
of injuries or a decrease in productivity from extreme stress. Domestic violence
in the workplace includes all types of behavior that affect a person's ability
to perform a job. With nearly one-third of women reporting physical abuse by an
intimate partner at some point in their lives, it is a virtual certainty that
in any company, domestic violence will impact its employees.
violence costs employers hundreds of millions of dollars each year in
increased health care costs. Not only are productivity, absenteeism and health
care costs concerns of employers, but so is workplace safety. It is crucial that
domestic violence be seen as a serious, recognizable, and preventable problem
like thousands of other workplace health and safety issues that effect a business
and its bottom line. Increasingly, employers across the U.S. are addressing domestic
violence by implementing programs and policies that respond to and help prevent
abuse, treating it as a preventable health problem.
The effects that
domestic violence has on each individual employee should also be a concern employers
understand. If employees who are abused have ongoing performance problems and
are not able to get help, they may lose their job as a result of the abuse. This
means losing resources victims need to escape from the abuse, as well as the loss
of a valuable employee.
Business, out of self-interest, should respond
to domestic violence, and do so in a businesslike way. By working to mitigate
the economic, legal, and productivity risks related to domestic violence, a business
will also create a workplace that is safer for victims, and at the same time,
will send a powerful message to society that responding to domestic violence is
Domestic violence is an important
business issue that cannot be ignored. The workplace is where many women facing
domestic violence spend the majority of their day. It's an ideal place for them
to get help and support. Domestic abuse effects employee health and well-being,
productivity, benefits costs, and risk to the employer. When employers address
domestic violence in the workplace, they have the power to save money - and save
According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, it is
estimated that domestic violence costs employers between $3-5 billion every year.
Moreover, employers lose another $100 million in lost wages, paid sick leave,
and absenteeism linked to domestic violence.
For additional information,
questions, or copies of sample policies, contact KCSDV. Material adapted with
permission from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Creating a "Domestic
Violence in the Workplace" Policy
1. Define partner violence. CAEPV
defines partner violence as abusive behavior occurring between two people in an
2. Determine existing policies and guidelines that
could be applied to this policy. Then determine how they could be modified to
address partner violence.
3. Determine what new policies must be developed.
4. Employees may need time off to seek protection, go to court, look for
new housing, or enter counseling for abuse (for victim and abusers), or for other
reasons related to partner violence. Define policy for flexible work hours, short-term
leaves of absence, and extended leaves of absence.
5. Consider what special
accommodations you may be able to make for victims of partner violence e.g., relocation
6. Determine how far you as the employer can go in aiding an employee
who is abused or an abuser, while maintaining the integrity of the workplace and
safety of all employees.
7. Include specific procedures for responding to
situations that occur in the workplace (an employee should..., coworker of a person
who is a victim or abuser should..., the manager or supervisor should..., Human
Resources should..., Security should...).
8. Communicate your policy clearly
to all employees. Establish a specific reporting protocol so that employees at
every level know who to report to and under what circumstances information is
to be reported.
9. Job programs and benefits available to other employees
should not be denied to employees based solely on partner violence related problems.
By the same token, those employees should have set performance expectations, just
as all employees do.
- Barnett, S., PhD. (2003). Domestic Violence in the Workplace. Topeka, KS: KCSDV.
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