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What’s missing from your Workplace Safety and Prevention Policy

Workplace safety is a top priority for organizations, but many of these policies either omit or gloss over…domestic violence.

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Jan 17, 2024
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Last updated on Mar 06, 2023

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.

The Data

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.”

In the News

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. 

What Employees have to Say

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.

Employees as Perpetrators

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:

  • Uses abusive language towards colleagues.
  • Uses work email to harass partner.
  • Blames others for their mistakes.
  • Can not take criticism.
  • Refuses to acknowledge poor work performance.
  • Insist they are always right.
  • Consistently leaves work early without explanation.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Clenched jaws and fists.
  • Loud talking or yelling.
  • Name-calling coworkers.
  • Brief employee work history.
  • Demonstrates violence towards people or objects.
  • Argumentative.
  • Often doesn’t cooperate with others.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Few family and friends.
  • Speaks negatively about their partner or the gender of their partner.

What can HR do?

While it’s impossible to support an employee when unaware of a situation, human resources can take a proactive approach. 

  • Evaluate and assess your current workplace prevention and safety policy. Is there any mention of domestic violence? 
  • If there’s no mention of domestic violence in your current policy, how can you include it?
  • If there is mention of domestic violence, is it efficient enough to detail the actions taken to support an employee and the safety of their colleagues?
  • Determine if your organization would benefit more from developing a separate domestic violence workplace policy.
  • Develop the steps your organization will take when an employee is experiencing abuse, including employee safety and wellness.
  • Ensure all employees are aware of amendments or additions to your current or new policy.
  • Actively and openly discuss domestic violence with all employees.
  • Provide training for managers and supervisors in recognizing the signs an employee is experiencing domestic violence, what resources are available, and the steps to ensure everyone is safe.

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.

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