Domestic Violence is defined as “violent behavior committed by one intimate partner against another. It can be physical, sexual, or psychological with the primary purpose to control, dominate, or hurt the other partner in the relationship” (Fitzgerald, et all, 1998). Domestic abuse does not only occur with women, however women are the most apparent cases, therefore this paper will discuss this matter only in terms of abuse against women. It has been shown in statistics that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States, with some cases resulting in the death of women. In the past domestic violence in the workplace was considered taboo, no one wanted to get involved in the private matter. However, there are many negative effects that abuse puts on the workplace, such as loss of productivity from the victim. It might not be everyone’s business to say something to the victim, however it is important to show support and address an issue if you see the employee slipping at work. There are many options available to companies when it arises when a partner is possibly abusing employee. This paper will discuss the options made available to corporations concerning the prevention of domestic violence and the protection of its victims.
A woman who is being abused by her partner can walk away from them; they can move out of the house. However, it is not as easy for a woman to leave her job because she needs the money. This means that the woman is spending at least eight hours a day at her workplace; this also means that the abuser knows for eight hours a day where he can locate her. This man can serve as a potential threat to the work environment because he could possibly act out at the workplace. If someone suspects that a co-worker is being abused and chooses to ignore the issue then the results could be more damaging that letting it remain a private matter. The victim could lose their life and this results in absolute emotional devastation arising from the employees.
There are also many other ways domestic violence can show up in the workplace. There is a loss of productivity and absenteeism from the victim. There are increased medical expenses and increased risk of violence at the workplace. A survey given to women from The Body Shop/YWCA found that “many of those experiencing domestic violence said that it had a direct impact on their jobs. Abuse caused them to arrive late to work (40%), miss whole days of work (34%), have difficulty advancing in their careers (23%), and have difficulty keeping a job (20%) (USOPM, 2000). Also 75% of women who are victims of domestic violence reported being harassed by their abuser at work by telephone or in person (Fitzgerald, et all, 1998). This shows that there is a huge possibility for the abuser to enter the work environment and cause harm to those around. Even if the abuser does not come to the workplace their abuse is still prevalent there. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “domestic violence can input work due to: sleep deprivation, physical injuries that impact on an individual’s ability to perform her job, and heightened anxiety levels” (DHHS, 1998). It is quite common that a domestic violence victim will not come forward to discuss what is occurring in their marriage or intimate relationship. There are a number of ways that an employer can provide support and help empower the employee being abused. They can learn how to recognize the possible signs of abuse, how to approach the victim if abuse if suspected, and where to refer the employee for the correct help.
There are signs a co-worker can look for when questioning if there is a problem. Was the previously reliable employee now frequently absent or tardy? Does the employee have bruises or is she wearing long-sleeved clothing during warm weather, possibly hiding physical signs of abuse? Is she isolating herself from friends, family, and co-workers? Does she seem depresses or distracted, is she crying a lot? Is she going through a bitter divorce and/or custody dispute? Has the employee received frequent phone calls form the spouse/lover or has this person shown up at the workplace?
If an employee feels that a co-worker is being abused, however the victim has not disclosed this information to them, it is best advised to approach the employee about their performance changes at work, let the victim know what has been observed. The employer then can express concern that the employee might be abused. It is very important for the employer to show support. The victim is very afraid and now is questioning if she is losing her job. An employer should never blame the victim; they should tell her she is not alone, she is not to blame, that there is help available, and most importantly, she does not deserve to be treated this way. After the conversation the employer should tell the victim that everything will be kept confidential and they should refer her to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP serves as a comprehensive referral source for many kinds of help. Victims of domestic violence need a variety of services when getting out of the relationship. The EAP counselors can act as a liaison with outside agencies providing services to the employee to assure she receives the appropriate services. If there is not an EAP at the organization refer the victim to resources in the community or a counselor on staff. If she admits to the abuse yet still does not want anyone else to know, the employer should tell her to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If the victim does admit to the abuse and seeks help then the employer should refer her to Human Resource or EAP. The employer should know to leave the counseling to the professional counselors and the security issues to the security professionals.