What Goes on in Vegas…

What goes on in Vegas might stay in Vegas is not true when it comes to domestic violence and the workplace.  What goes on at home often shows up at work, and it’s frequently not pretty.  Domestic violence statistics indicate that 25% of all women will be abused at home, and many of those women are employees working with or for you. If you think your workplace is immune from this travesty, think again.

Domestic violence was considered the greatest safety threat in the workplace by 96% of employers participating in a recent national survey conducted by OSHA.  Not only is it a threat to the individuals directly involved, domestic violence costs business in many ways including $6 billion per year in health care costs, $8 million lost paid work days and $1.5 billion in lost productivity per year.  Twenty to forty percent of abused women will loose 2-4 workdays per month due to domestic violence.  Domestic violence has significant impact on employee productivity, employee morale and employee unrest.

Where domestic violence surfaces at work, employers risk legal consequences under several laws including FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act), Victim Assistance laws and even Anti-discrimination Harassment laws.

Employers, supervisors and co-workers need to understand and be sensitive to the signs of domestic violence.  Often the signs are physical and appear as bruising, cuts and even broken bones.  All too often though the signs are less obvious including a sudden change of behaviors, moodiness, inattention or lack of focus on the job, excessive phone calls or E-mails, excessive absenteeism, and stalking.

Employers need to take a stance on domestic violence and address its potential ramifications on both the individual(s) involves and on the workplace as a whole.  It is important to become familiar with and publicize the agency or agencies to call.  In Longmont contact The St. Vrain Safe Shelter on their 24-hour hotline 303.772.4422. Companies should consider adopting domestic abuse policies as a part of their violence in the workplace programs. Companies should enlist the support of professional counselors or EAP’s (Employee Assistance Programs) to offer training and counseling services.  When specific instances of domestic violence are identified at work employers should consider enhancing security measures including with permission from the employee, providing the receptionist and security with pictures of the abuser, temporarily adjusting the performance expectations of the employee, possibly changing her work schedule or work location. If the employee has filed a restraining order on the abuser make sure that the place of employment is specifically named in the protection order thus enabling the employer to legally keep the abuser off the work premises.

Domestic violence is all too often a silent problem and when it does surface it is frequently not addressed for fear of getting involved or knowing what to say or do.  Employees and employers alike should think,”If you see her – say it.”  Tell her what you see physically or what you see happening to her performance then ask her what she wants done. Encourage her to seek help and that you care about her safety.  Frequently the victim is too ashamed to say anything and will only take action if someone specifically asks about the abuse.  Two anonymous quotes reinforce this thought. “I remember the first co-worker who asked me if my fat lip was caused by my ex-husband.  He may have felt that it didn’t do any good, or that he was wrong to ask.  But by asking that question, he planted a seed in my mind that what was happening to me wasn’t right”.  “After getting help from my supervisor, I worked so hard.  I think I gave back as much as I could to her.  The fact that they had been there for me through the tough stuff gave me a sense of commitment to the work.  If you stick it out, what a loyal employee you get in the end”.

Getting involved is the only way to impact the effect that domestic violence has on the workplace.