Preventing Workplace Domestic Violence

Preventing Workplace Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a public concern that affects employees in the community and the workplace.  In addition to its multiple negative consequences for victims and survivors, domestic violence can spill over into the workplace, compromising the safety of both victims and co-workers and resulting in lost productivity, increased health care costs, increased absenteeism, and increased employee turnover.

What is workplace violence?

Most people think of violence as a physical assault.  However, workplace violence is a much broader problem.  It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her place of employment or while performing work duties. 


Rumors, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson, and murder are all examples of workplace violence.


What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior, including acts or threatened acts that are used by a perpetrator to gain power or control over a current or former intimate partner.  


This behavior includes, but is not limited to, physical and/or emotional or sexual violence, physical and/or psychological intimidation, verbal abuse, stalking, economic control, harassment, threats, injury, or other related crimes. 


Domestic violence is not a “personal” problem that stays at home.  Approximately 60% of adults in the U.S. are employed, so chances are that in a given workplace, many employees are victims, perpetrators, or have a friend or family member who is a victim. 


In fact, more than 44% of working U.S. adults say they have experienced the effects of domestic violence in the workplace.  When domestic violence follows a victim to work, it becomes a workplace issue. An aggressor can present a risk to the victim or others in the workplace itself.

You may have heard people say “domestic violence is a personal matter”, “it’s none of my business” or “that’s between a husband and wife”, for example. These attitudes further isolate people experiencing domestic violence creating a barrier between the victim and those who may be in a position to provide valuable support and assistance. 


The workplace can play an important role between people experiencing violence of any kind, and assisting individuals to get the necessary help in preventing workplace domestic violence.


Domestic violence has become an epidemic in our society which too often spills into the workplace. In many cases, the violent partner may not know where his former partner may now live, but he knows where he/she works.  


While it can be any gender mix, most of these situations involve male against female threats and violence, and industries like healthcare with high female populations are therefore even more at risk.  And the perpetrator poses a threat not only to his intended victim but to everyone else in the workplace.


What effect does domestic violence have on the workplace?

People experiencing domestic violence often feel isolated. They may feel ashamed or have concerns that their situation will compromise their employment so they are afraid to say anything.  

Similarly, those who suspect domestic violence may be affecting an employee are afraid to approach this subject or intervene for many reasons. This further isolation increases the risk to those who experience domestic violence.  In addition, people experiencing domestic violence often experience difficulty getting to work and state that their work performance is negatively affected. Other implications for the workplace include:


  • reduced productivity and motivation

  • decreased worker morale

  • potential harm to employees, co-workers and/or clients

  • increased replacement, recruitment and training costs if victims are dismissed for poor performance or absenteeism

  • strained co-worker relations


However, it is the employer’s general duty across all jurisdictions to ensure all employees have a safe and healthy workplace, including protecting all employees from the risk of domestic violence in the workplace.  


A supportive and accommodating workplace provides the victim an opportunity to establish financial independence and provides victims access to the help they need in their unique situation to prevent workplace domestic violence.


At a basic level, the threatened employee will see the workplace as a safe haven, a place where she can be free of abuse and fear for eight hours.  For many victims of domestic violence, maintaining employment is critical to asserting economic independence from the perpetrator, but suffering through domestic violence can interfere with work productivity, efficiency, attendance, and job retention. 


Ensuring that victims of domestic violence have access to a safe and secure workplace that accommodates their needs is part of fulfilling their right to be free from domestic violence.

As part of their workplace violence prevention policy, employers should also take responsibility for:


  • Identify Warning Signs: Because people who experience domestic violence are more likely to report it to a co-worker than to others in the workplace, all employees should be trained to recognize the warning signs and risk factors for domestic violence.


  • Establish a support network: Various workplace parties can offer support and assistance to employees experiencing domestic violence. Working together in a team which may include the supervisor, trusted co-worker, human resources, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider and union representatives may be a helpful approach to providing a supportive network.


  • Develop a Safety Plan: Workplaces can create an individualized personal and workplace safety plans to address the situation of the worker and other employees. Update the plans as circumstances change. Share the plans with anyone who needs to know about the situation in order to ensure safety. 


Unfortunately, most employers are completely unprepared to address these effects.  Most workplaces in the United States do not have formal policies to address workplace violence.  As a result, when incidents do occur, an employer‘s first reaction may be to penalize the victim because it seems like the easiest way to address the problem. 


It’s up to employers, however, to develop a workplace anti-violence program to keep workers safe and productive.  Employers can make a real difference if they are proactive in preventing workplace domestic violence, instead of waiting for something bad to happen.


Most fundamentally, the employer should foster a culture that is supportive, respectful, non-judgmental and open.  It is best to set a tone of trust and convince the threatened employee that he/she is not alone and it is not his/her fault.  


Your initial response to your employees concerns may set the overall tone moving forward. The situation should be managed with empathy, respect and preserving dignity.


Workplace Security Can Be A Deterrent In Preventing Workplace Domestic Violence

Consider appropriate physical and procedural security measures including facility and/or departmental access control and prompt lockdown capabilities, local law enforcement liaison and support, reporting and trending processes, background screening, staff training, worn identification, visitor management, distributing photos of the perpetrator and his vehicle, video cameras and monitoring, and if deemed appropriate, security officer support.  


You might also  establish internal communications measures, identify safe rooms/shelters,and think about how to foster a strong level of protectiveness, awareness, involvement and ownership by all employees.


Security professionals may not be able to change, enlighten, or civilized a culture to the realities of domestic violence.  However, we can be, and need to be, both advocates and activists at work in safeguarding our employees who may be at risk. Create a policy for no tolerance by outside perpetrators and prevent access to your building or campus, if at all possible.


When running a business, keeping your employees and facility secure is a top priority.  In 2019, using a facility access control system is one of the most efficient ways to not only prevent unauthorized visitors from entering your business but also to manage employee access and prevent workplace domestic violence.


With access control security, you know who enters your business, when they entered and what door they used. These systems also include analytics that allow you to track where your employees are. 


In addition, they allow you to section off rooms or areas to only authorized employees and receive reports of suspicious activity, such as someone trying to enter somewhere they don't belong.  


Security professionals recommend that businesses do a yearly review of their security and access control.  Consider your security needs and how your current system has served you. If there have been any security incidents over the past year, reflect on whether your current system is at fault and if it could be more secure.


Dicks Lock and Safe has years of security management experience.  We serve both residential and commercial locksmith clients, providing comprehensive security management assessments, man types of access control systems, development of related policies and plans, and expert training.  


For help or questions, reach out to us at 714-528-3984


Tags: Preventing Workplace Domestic Violence, access control system, workplace security, employee security, office violence

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