Domestic violence is that dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about but everyone knows is happening. Too often we see coworkers who are anxious, lack concentration, have unexplained bruises or injuries and/or seem isolated.
As employers, we see the results of domestic violence in lost productivity, increased health care costs, potential danger to all of our employees and violations of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) obligation to provide a safe and healthful work environment for our employees. According to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it is estimated that domestic violence costs businesses in the United States between 5 and 6 billion dollars annually, 4.1 billion of which is from direct health care costs. Frequent unscheduled absences, lower productivity, and increased visits to the emergency room by victims of domestic violence contribute to these costs. Texas Health Resources has developed a domestic violence cost calculator, which can be accessed at http://www2.texashealth.org/dv/.
Although men and women both can be victims of domestic violence, statistically, homicide is the number one killer of women on the job. In many cases, those murders were committed by current or former intimate partners of those women. This is only one of many reasons why employers should be concerned about this issue and take steps to address it in their own organizations.
Here’s how employers can assist employees they suspect may be victims of domestic violence:
- Create a company policy against violence (Visit workplacesrespond.org for a workplace policy creation tool.)
- Create a supportive environment
- Educate your employees
- Train managers on domestic violence prevention and confidential referral
- Provide employees with information about where they can get help
- Provide flexible work schedules if safety is a consideration
- Be aware that the abuse could be coming from another employee with whom the victim is having or has had an intimate relationship
- Develop a domestic violence leave policy so that the employee can take time off without worry to obtain a restraining order, go to court, speak with an attorney, etc. (NOTE: In Florida, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide 3 days of leave per year when there are incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault.)
- Contact local domestic violence organizations and law enforcement agencies to obtain education and service referrals.
To learn more about protecting your employees from domestic violence visit the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at http://www.fcadv.org/domestic-violence-workplace and the National Council Against Domestic Violence at http://www.ncadv.org/.
In the Central Florida area, Harbor House of Central Florida provides an important community service called Key Business Initiative. Harbor House works to reduce violent crime and homicides in local workplaces, improve access to services and reduce employer costs. They work with local employers throughout Central Florida to implement domestic abuse workplace safety policies, train employees and establish a company go-to person in the organization to be familiar with available resources. To learn more about their program visit http://www.harborhousefl.com/businesses/
Providing a non-judgmental, safe place for an employee to share his or her problem with domestic violence is the first step to help solve this dilemma. From there, the employer can develop an action plan to assist the victim and keep other employees safe.
Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.
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