Violence from Significant Others | DCR Workforce Blog

Violence from Significant Others

I always held this police officer friend of mine in admiration, if not awe. Her reputation as a strong and utterly fearless officer was undisputed. She was married to a fellow officer, and she once told me this romantic story of how he stood patiently waiting for a glimpse of her outside her door – when she had a party going with friends – for over 2 hours on a snowy night.  It was only when she walked out of her marriage that the reality was revealed to my utter shock! She was a battered wife! A woman who held the power and authority – which she wielded without the slightest of inhibitions – to protect others from violence and ill-treatment! Of course, I am not suggesting even for a second that men are not victims of domestic violence, or that wives do not ever hurt their husbands. But then women lead in the gory statistical details at 8 out of 1000 where as men stand at 1 out of 1000.

Possible Issues:

  • Physical, emotional, psychological and even financial effects could impact an employee’s productivity.
  • Possibility of violence at the workplace threatens the safety of the worker as well as the co-workers.
  • Gender-based violence keeps women away from some jobs, perceiving a threat in the hours or the location.

Employer’s Liability:

OSHA stipulates that the employer needs to provide a place of employment ‘free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm’. Employers may restrict employees from engaging in violent acts using employee policies. Handling a situation where an employee is facing a difficult domestic situation is harder and requires adequate and appropriate action to minimize the risk.

  • Disclosing an employee’s domestic violence situation could land the employer in trouble for violation of privacy, even if it is disclosed to a limited number of people.
  • In case of a domestic violence incident in the workplace, an employer may be liable for failure to protect the employee, if the employer’s negligence can be proved to have caused the risk.
  • The employer would be liable if the possibility of providing protection was disregarded, or an anticipated risk was ignored.
  • An employer has an affirmative duty to protect an employee, if notified of the possibility of such an occurrence; as when the victim obtains an Order of Protection forbidding the abuser’s presence at the workplace.

Only 15 states make it illegal for the employer to terminate such an employee ad mandate accommodations which provide better scope for the victim’s safety from any attack.

Some Pointers for Employers’ Help:

Abuse victims – like my friend, the police officer – would usually like to keep the matter under wraps. Employers can create an assistance program to help victims or guide them to seek help from community sources – on security and legal aspects.

  • Respect the employee’s privacy, at all times – keeping it professional, not personal.
  • Address it as a performance issue as such victims invariably fail related measures.
  • Make assistance appealing, through putting survival on job under threat.
  • Allow time off to seek the necessary help
  • Help with Orders of protection – which are issued at no fee, even on emergency basis – and allow extensions later.

Possible Accommodations:

It helps to have the security of the premises analyzed by the local police, which can be obtained at no cost.

  • Provide secure parking space for the victim.
  • Arrange for escort, if necessary.
  • Alert receptionist and security personnel.
  • Ensure that all visitors to the premises are identified, and keep copies of the abuser’s picture available.
  • Provide the security and reception with copies of the Order of Protection; advise them to notify the police in case of trespass by the abuser.
  • Assign duties in a secure area or allow a transfer or relocation to a different premises.
  • Screen  the phone calls and other contact attempts to reach the victim

States like Indiana do not prevent the termination of victims of violence but offer them unemployment compensation. This could make victims struggle harder to hide the truth; pushing them deeper into taking further abuse. Currently, 3 women are killed each day by their significant others. Some employers the need to support these victims, the administration is looking at mandating the terms of the federal policy signed by President Obama on April 12 for the private sector too.

With temporary employees caught in a similar situation, employers may do well to remember that they need to provide the same security to them as they would to regular employees and also avoid discriminating against them in any manner.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.