Thousands of workers suffer abuse at home — and, all too often, this abuse spills over into the workplace. According to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, there are 30,000 to 40,000 incidents of on-the-job violence a year in which the victims knew their attackers intimately. More than seven in ten human resources and security personnel (71%) surveyed have seen an incident of domestic violence on company property.
A violent episode at work can easily endanger co-workers, as well as the victim. What’s more, female workers who are abused at home have higher rates of absenteeism, drug abuse, and depression that increase Health insurance costs and lower productivity — costing businesses more than $4.5 billion a year.
Federal and state law requires employers to provide a safe workplace for all employees. Failure to act on the knowledge that an incident of domestic violence could threaten workers on the job places a huge potential liability on your company.
In deciding whether an employee might be a victim of domestic violence, beware if the worker:
- Has unexplained bruises that don’t seem to fit their injuries.
- Wears inappropriate clothing that might be covering up injuries.
- Seems distracted at work.
- Has a high rate of absenteeism.
- Appears anxious, upset, or depressed.
- Receives repeated, upsetting telephone calls during the work shift.
If you notice any of these signs, talk to your employee privately, telling them what signs you noticed and expressing concern about possible abuse. Be supportive and keep this information confidential, except for individuals who need to know, such as security personnel. Offer company and community support and be flexible with the employee’s working arrangements.
According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, supervisors are usually the first people to become aware of an employee who might be a domestic violence victim. The fund recommends that supervisors refer potential victims to your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a community domestic violence program. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is (800) 799-SAFE (7233).