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Workplace safety is a top priority for organizations, but many of these policies either omit or gloss over…domestic violence.
We can all agree that workplace safety is a top priority for organizations. It’s a costly responsibility to ignore. Protecting employees from dangerous chemicals and equipment is vital. Many workplace safety policies and programs focus on falls, hazardous materials, protective garments, and employee violence. However, there is one safety concern many of these policies either omit or gloss over…domestic violence.
An often unknown fact is approximately twenty-seven percent of incidences of workplace violence are attributed to domestic violence. That can mean that at least one of the people harmed during a workplace violence incident was intimately connected to the perpetrator. It can also mean that the perpetrator has a history of domestic violence.
In 2015, forty-three percent of women murdered in the workplace were killed by a relative or a domestic partner. Additionally, seventy-one percent of women who filed a domestic violence protection order reported an inability to concentrate at work. Studies have also shown that “fifty-nine percent of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were domestic violence-related.”
Recently, several incidences of domestic violence have occurred at the workplace. An employee of Cava was viciously stabbed and sliced by her ex-boyfriend. A few weeks ago, an employee of Amazon was murdered at one of their warehouses. The tragic mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, includes an investigation to determine if domestic violence was an attributing factor in the perpetrator’s motives.
When I reflect on my time in an abusive relationship, I distinctly recall how it impacted me at work. Sometimes the abuser would start arguments in the middle of the night, interrupting my sleep before work. He constantly called and texted me throughout the day, making concentrating hard. After finally getting the courage to leave, I was stalked and harassed at work. He also told my colleagues what was happening and accused me of being the abuser. I had court dates, calls with my attorney, changes in my schedule for safety reasons, and a security escort. I was lucky to work for a supportive organization.
However, some employees are not so fortunate. When I asked a group of survivors about their experience at work while in an abusive relationship, their responses were eye-opening.
“They treated me poorly. I ended up quitting.”
“They treat me horribly and my anxiety is now high. I trust them zero percent but am afraid to go elsewhere.”
“My job threatened to write me up for taking time off to go to restraining order hearings, seeking shelter, and go to therapy.”
Others shared that they didn’t tell their manager because of how they responded to other employees or the stigma often associated with domestic violence.
It can be complicated to determine if an employee is a perpetrator of domestic violence. Perpetrators are skilled at pretending and hiding their abusive behaviors. Many survivors I spoke with shared that they were shocked when they told others about the abuse because the person “didn’t look like an abuser.” There is no “look” to an abuser. Here are some signs an employee may be a perpetrator of domestic violence:
While it’s impossible to support an employee when unaware of a situation, human resources can take a proactive approach.
Human Resources is in the ideal position to address how domestic violence plays a role in workplace violence. Evaluating current policies and programs and assessing your organization’s training needs can prepare every level of the organization for its impact; while supporting survivors.
When employers take steps to address policies to support employees who are survivors, the responses shift to:
“My job had free counseling available to me.”
“It was my boss who first made me realize it was abuse.”
“My job was phenomenal. I'm blessed to work for an excellent company.”
Want to learn more about how to implement this in your organization? Reach out to Melody the at Courageous SHIFT.