What to do When an Employee is Involved in a Domestic Violence Situation
You may think of domestic violence as a private issue, one that happens after-hours and at home. This perception, which may seem reasonable at first glance, may be making it possible for an employee to remain in an abusive situation. Domestic violence doesn’t always stay at home; it can follow the victim and has a ripple effect on every part of his or her life.
As an employer, you may wonder how or when to intersect into the world of your employees’ private lives. Where’s the line that tells you when to stop pushing for information, that line that can come with legal and other consequences? It can be difficult, but there’s good reason for you to have a conversation with an employee that you suspect is a victim of domestic violence.
You don’t have to be an expert. In fact, you should leave the counseling to professionals. Instead, you should have a simple plan in place that includes the following elements:
- Events that happen outside the workplace
- Security related to the events
- Violations of a workplace agreement
- Non-actionable conduct that is disrupting the workplace
Part of your plan should include having information about referral organizations, so that if you learn of a domestic violence situation, you are already prepared with resources.
It’s also important to have buy-in from your executive team, so when you are creating a domestic violence policy, invite members from various departments to participate in creating the plan.
You can offer comfort. It’s important to include a few points in your conversation with an employee that’s involved in a domestic violence situation:
- Let them know that you believe what they tell you, and be careful not to offer any statements that include judgment.
- Talk with the employee about what changes could be made to the workplace to make them feel safer.
- Refer your employee to a service that offers qualified counseling and practical help, including a temporary place to stay.
- Talk with the security staff to see what can be done to help your employee feel safer at work.
A domestic violence plan benefits your company, too. With all the potential legal problems that come with looking into a domestic violence situation, you may still be reluctant to dive into your employees’ private lives. You should know, though, that when partner violence is not addressed, your company pays a price, too. The Department of Labor reports that victims of domestic violence missed nearly 8 million days of paid work each year, resulting in $1.8 billion in lost productivity.
It’s likely to come up. In case you’re thinking your company doesn’t have any domestic violence threatening your employees, consider this: The Society for Human Resource Management research indicates that 21 percent of adults with full-time employment reported being victims of domestic violence, and 16 percent of organizations report having a domestic violence incident within the past five years.
To learn more about domestic violence and the resources available for your employees, visit the YWCA of St. Joseph. We offer housing, counseling and other help for victims of domestic violence in the region. Call us today for more information.