What Employers Need To Know About Domestic Violence In The Workplace

According to the CDC, about 41% of women and 26% of men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported an intimate partner violence-related impact during their lifetime. Intimate Partner Violence also known as domestic violence is generally understood as physical, emotional, financial, or sexual coercion or abuse occurring between intimate partners or former intimate partners. Not surprisingly the abuse a person experiences at home will spill over to the workday Employers can take steps to create a supportive, compassionate environment while also minimizing legal risks.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence 

There are some signs that can signal that an employee is a victim of domestic violence.  

  • Frequent tardiness or absenteeism
  • Increased requests for medical leave
  • Visible physical injuries
  • Decreased performance or trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty communicating with others
  • Fear that an abuser will come to the workplace
  • Repeated calls, emails or texts by the abuser

Many of these factors do not automatically mean that someone is a victim of abuse, but it is important for employers to recognize these signs and not jump to conclusions as to why someone’s performance has declined. There may be some external circumstances that need to be addressed.

What an Employer Can Do

Domestic violence does not happen overnight – rather it is often a slow build over time. In order to employers to manage the potential risk, they should take steps now:

  • Have an “Open Door” policy and a supportive culture that creates a safe space to ask for help
  • Ensure all managers are well-trained on non-discrimination and non-retaliation concepts.
  • Ensure sick and safe leave policies are up-to-date and posted conspicuously in the workplace and provided electronically so that employees can access them privately. Some jurisdictions require employers grant leave for reasons related to domestic violence.
  • Include a “violence in the workplace” policy in the Employee Handbook on how employees should report safety concerns before a workplace incident occurs.
  • Be flexible when modifications to the employee’s work or work conditions can provide a measure of protection and support without resorting to formal mechanisms.
  • Refer employees to the Employee Assistance Program, if one is available, or to community resources.
  • Practice common-sense confidentiality: communicate need-to-know information without disclosing sensitive or private details. Email addresses, phone numbers and physical locations should not be over-distributed and should be restricted in some instances.

If you or someone you know needs help today, immediate and confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting thehotline.org, calling 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224), or texting “START” to 88788. 

If you have any questions as an employer about navigating domestic violence at work, give us a call.

Natasha M. Nazareth, Esq.
Ginny Cascio Bonifacino, Esq.