Domestic violence affects the workplace in numerous ways. Domestic violence, when it spills over into the workplace, can lead to increased absenteeism, turnover, higher health care costs and sharply decreased productivity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that domestic violence costs companies $5.4 billion annually.
Often, victims don’t tell HR or managers that they are being abused. But if an employer suspects that an employee might be the victim of domestic abuse and that the abuser might attempt to harm the employee or others at the workplace, the employer must take steps to protect the workforce. Under the general duty clause of theOccupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers are required to take “feasible steps to minimize risks” in workplaces where “the risk of violence and significant personal injury are significant enough to be ‘recognized hazards,’” according to a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration letter of interpretation.
ASIS International and SHRM have collaborated to develop a Standard for Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention. The standard provides an overview of policies, processes and protocols organizations can adopt to identify and prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to better address and resolve threats and violence that have occurred. The standard contains a section with guidance on dealing with domestic violence that spills over into the workplace.
Managers and supervisors who suspect an employee might be the victim of domestic abuse should look for a pattern of the following behaviors:
Employers can help victims of domestic violence by taking the following steps:
If the employee refuses help or denies that any abuse is going on but the employer still suspects that the employee is being abused and that the abuser might come to the workplace, then the employer still has a responsibility to protect the employee and co-workers on the premises.
Employers should be aware that several states have passed laws protecting the workplace rights of victims of domestic or sexual violence. Before taking any type of action against an employee suspected of being the victim of domestic violence, employers should carefully check the laws in the states where they do business. Even in states that have not passed such laws, employers should establish written policies on leave requests and related issues.
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