Domestic violence in the workplace
The information below is adapted from the National Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence.
Do not assume the effects of domestic violence are not confined
to the home; domestic violence encroaches upon a victim's workplace when her abuser attempts to
stalk, harass, injure, or threaten her at work. These
behaviors not only endanger the victim, they also put her co-workers, clients, and
members of the general public at risk.
Domestic violence in the workplace is costly to both the victim and to
her employer. A victim may suffer lost work, lost wages, and poor performance appraisals.
Her abuser may threaten her via phone, mail, fax, or email, and such disturbances
affect employees' ability to fulfill the requirements of their jobs. The risk of
job loss because of an abuser's continual harassment is very often a barrier
to leaving an abusive relationship. (See Why Do Women Stay? Why
Don't They Leave?)
Domestic violence in the workplace also has a negative impact on an employer.
When a victim's productivity is compromised, when adverse publicity affects
employee morale and business profitability, when domestic abuse escalates
to vandalism and property damage, a company's bottom line suffers.
Although most companies are insured for property damage, many will see
their rates increase as a result of such incidents. Similarly, violence
in the workplace may also lead to an increase in employer-paid health
premiums. Companies may also need to evaluate the cost of short- and long-term
disability benefits if injury occurs at work as a result of domestic violence.
Employer liability also becomes an issue if employers fail to take adequate
measures to protect employees.
A victim's employer and colleagues, although disrupted, should
remember that victims do not deserve—nor did they ask—to
be abused. Domestic violence is never the victim's fault.
What empoyers can do
What can companies do about domestic violence in the workplace? The American
Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence suggests companies
can do one or all of the following:
- Make a safety
planning worksheet available to all employees. Have it available
in cafeterias, staff lounges, and restrooms.
- Offer a brown bag lunch session or seminar to heighten awareness of
domestic violence. Such a session should, ideally, be facilitated by
local domestic violence agencies or law enforcement agencies and should
also address community resources available to respond to domestic violence.
- In the United States, the National Workplace Resource Center on Domestic
Violence (1-800-END-ABUSE) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline
(1-512-453-8117) each has materials for employers, including educational
- Train at least one employee about domestic violence and assign that
person responsible for responding to domestic violence issues in the
workplace (e.g., safety and confidentiality)
- Establish clear policies and protocols for security and reception
staff. These policies should outline what the response to incidents of
domestic violence should be, including how to call for emergency help,
whom to notify within the company, and what to do if an employee has
a protective order.
- Consider showing the PBS video Breaking the Silence: Journeys of
Hope, underwritten by Mary
- Consider flexibility in employee benefits and policies for employees
who are victims of domestic violence.
- The Family
Violence Prevention Fund has information to help you develop a domestic
- You can heighten awareness among your employees by letting them know
about the needs and activities of local shelters.
You may wish to develop
a worplace program supporting shelters, allowing them to offer victims
in your communities more aid and support.
- Set up a hamper to accept in-kind donations of office supplies, children's
books, blankets, toys, or clothing. Consider volunteering one afternoon
a week at your local shelter. Employees from your company can assist
with painting, gardening, or repairs.
Following are just some of the wonderful books on this topic
available from Amazon.com. Click on the cover art to learn more.
For even more resources, visit Amazon.com
Mary Kay Inc. Supports Women's Shelters
Since 2000, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation has awarded millions of dollars
to women's shelters across the United States. From 2005 through 2007, the Foundation
has awarded $20,000 grants, totaling $3 million, to 150 shelters in all 50 states for
each of these years.
Silence: Journeys of Hope
Breaking the Silence: Journeys of Hope, the compelling PBS
documentary underwritten by the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation and Mary Kay
Inc., first aired in the fall of 2001 nationwide. This sensitively crafted program
raises awareness about domestic violence, focusing on women of strength and
their journeys from victim to survivor. More information is available on how you
can order a copy, along with a facilitator guide.