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News Releases - Division of Media Relations and Communication Services - American Bar Association - Law - Legal

American Bar Association - News Release

Address Domestic Violence in the Workplace This October

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 it.

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, 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 abuse.

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 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.