Domestic violence doesn't stay at home when victims go to work. Domestic violence often becomes workplace violence. It is crucial that domestic abuse be seen as a serious, recognizable, and preventable problem like thousands of other workplace health and safety issues that affect a business and its bottom line.
To address this issue, the Employers Against Domestic Violence (EADV) was founded. EADV is a group of public and private employers who collaborate on the issue of domestic violence in the workplace.
Employer Related Materials
While some employers may feel that domestic violence is "too controversial" to address, corporate America has dealt with difficult issues before, such as AIDS, for example, and can do so with domestic violence. In fact:
- Public opinion research conducted in 1995 by a major insurance company found that 91 percent of consumers surveyed believe that it is a good idea for companies to support domestic violence awareness programs.
- Business leaders agree that domestic violence is a problem that affects their workplaces: in another survey, fifty-seven percent of senior corporate executives believe domestic violence is a major problem in society. One-third of them thought this problem has a negative impact on their bottom lines, and 40% said they were personally aware of employees and other individuals affected by domestic violence. Sixty-six percent believe their company's financial performance would benefit from addressing the issue of domestic violence among their employees.
- 78% of Human Resources professionals polled by Personnel Journal said that domestic violence is a workplace issue.
Domestic violence affects productivity, and increases absenteeism.
- In a 1997 national survey, 24% of women between the ages of 18 and 65 had experienced domestic violence. Moreover 37% of women who experienced domestic violence report this abuse had an impact on their work performance in the form of lateness, missed work, keeping a job or career promotions.
- A study of survivors of domestic violence found that abusive husbands and partners harassed 74% of employed battered women at work. Domestic violence caused 56% of them to be late for work at least five times a month, 28% to leave early at least five days a month, and 54% to miss at least three full days of work a month. They said that abuse also affected their ability to keep a job.
- Batterers also may be less productive or miss work because of violence, incarceration, or legal proceedings resulting from the violence.
- Forty-seven percent of senior executives polled said that domestic violence has a harmful effect on the company's productivity.
HEALTH CARE COSTS
Many employers offer health care benefits to their employees. Not surprisingly, this is another arena where domestic violence has an impact on a company's bottom line.
- The total health care costs of family violence are estimated in the hundreds of millions each year, much of which is paid for by the employer.
- Employers are aware of this economic burden: 44 percent of executives surveyed say that domestic violence increases their health care costs.
Employers are more concerned today about violence in the workplace than they were 20 years ago, as news stories of workplace shootings, often related to domestic violence, become increasingly common. They are right to be concerned: victims of domestic violence may be especially vulnerable while they are at work. The lethality of domestic violence often increases at times when the batterer believes that the victim has left the relationship. Once a woman attempts to leave an abusive partner, the workplace can become the only place the assailant can locate and harm her.
- Ninety-four percent of corporate security directors surveyed rank domestic violence as a high security problem at their company.
- A large majority of providers surveyed have dealt with specific partner abuse scenarios in the past year, including an employee with a restraining order (83%) or an employee being stalked at work by a current of former partner (71%).
Aside from the safety, ethical and bottom-line incentives to employers in developing policies regarding employees facing domestic violence, there are liability issues to consider. Domestic violence may raise legal issues in various circumstances. A batterer may stalk or assault his partner or others in the workplace. Or, abuse may occur between two coworkers in a dating or marital relationship.
Several laws may apply:
- Occupational safety and health laws generally require employers to maintain a safe workplace, which may include a violence-free workplace.
- Family and medical leave laws may require employers to grant leave to employees who are coping with domestic violence situations.
- Victim assistance laws may prohibit employers from taking adverse job actions against women disclose their situation or who take time off from their jobs to attend court appearances.
- Under certain circumstances, acts of violence against women may constitute a form of sexual harassment, which may violate federal or state anti-discrimination laws. This is true if the abusive partner creates a hostile environment at her workplace, and the company knowingly fails to take reasonable corrective action, such as informing security personnel of the problem and instructing them to take appropriate steps.
These are not marginal business concerns — public perceptions, productivity, costs, safety, and liability lie at the core of many vital corporate interests. They are, in fact, exactly the areas that any prudent leader will take into account when considering issues that affect employees and the workplace.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: TREAT IT AS A BUSINESS ISSUE
Domestic violence is an important business issue that cannot be ignored. The workplace is where many women facing domestic violence spend at least eight hours a day. It is an ideal place for them to get help and support. Domestic abuse affects employee health and well-being, productivity, benefits costs and risk to the employer. When employers face domestic violence as it affects the workplace they have the power to save money — and save lives.
ARIZONA'S WORKPLACE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Arizona has recently been selected as one of ten states that will participate in a new national project to create supportive work environments for victims of domestic violence. The Corporate Citizenship Initiative sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund will provide the necessary support for a team of Arizona officials to craft a statewide action program to effectively address domestic violence in the workplace.
As one of the leaders in this effort, the MAG Domestic Violence Council is committed to working with the local governments in Maricopa County in developing policies and practices to assist and support victims in the workplace.