Address Domestic Violence in the Workplace
By Alfred P. Carlton Jr.,
American Bar Association President
Domestic violence follows its victim. If the victim stays home,
the violence stays home; but most victims are not at home. Like
everyone else they are in the workplace – some are probably
in your workplace – and the violence follows them there.
Abusers know their victims are vulnerable at work, and may
stalk, harass, threaten, or even injure them there. They may
disable transportation, destroy work clothing or papers, or
batter the victim before an important work meeting. Their actions
may lead to lost work time and wages, decreased productivity
and morale, property damage, personal injury to both the intended
victim and other employees, and possibly even corporate liability.
Victims at work ought not to be helpless. Employers must take
steps to protect their employees against domestic violence in
their workplace. The first step is to simply raise their own
awareness of the possibility that their employee may be a victim,
and learn how to identify victims – or perpetrators – of domestic
violence. The next step is to adopt and publicize a policy to
deal with such cases, a policy that holds the abuser, not the
victim, accountable for acts of violence. Managers and supervisors
must be trained on the policy, and all employees should know
that help is available if they need it, and where to go to get
Most human resources professionals, a full 78 percent, acknowledge
partner violence as a workplace issue, and many employers are
already doing something about it. Mary Kay, Inc., has taken
the lead in educating its employees and sales force, and has
made an American Bar Association brochure, ‘Steps to Safety,’
available through the Mary Kay Foundation at its website, www.marykay.com.
The FBI is holding a conference on workplace domestic violence
later this year, and is committed to working on this issue.
The Department of Defense has created a task force to look at
violence in the military, as it relates to domestic partner
This October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we hope that
all employers will take steps to make their workplaces safer
for their employees who may be victims or coworkers of victims
of domestic abuse.
The ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, chaired by Laura Stein,
General Counsel of H.J. Heinz Company, can help. In addition
to its ‘Steps to Safety’ brochure, aimed primarily at victims,
it has developed ‘A Guide for Employers: Domestic Violence in
the Workplace’ to help employers formulate plans to deal with
these issues. Information on how to get a copy is available
at www.abanet.org/domviol/home.html or by calling 800/285-2221.
Domestic violence costs employers between $3 and $5 billion
dollars each year in lost days of work and reduced productivity.
The bottom line is: domestic violence hurts the "bottom
line." This is an ideal time to get started in developing
a safety protocol and strategy for your workplace. Your productivity
and profitability may depend on it.