Did you know that, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), every nine seconds a woman in the U.S. is assaulted or beaten? That every day in the U.S. three women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands? Did you know that, worldwide, one in three women has been beaten, abused or coerced into sex during her lifetime … and that the abuser is most often a member of her family?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, created as a Day of Unity in October, 1981 by the NCADV. Is purpose was to connect battered women’s advocates nationwide who are working toward their common goal of ending violence against women and children. The day soon grew to a week, and in 1987 expanded to the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The human toll in physical and psychological suffering is immense, but there is also a real dollar and cents cost to U.S. businesses. Domestic victims lose eight million days of paid work in the U.S. each year. This equals 32,000 full-time jobs! Costs of intimate partner violence total almost $6 billion per year: $4.1 billion for medical and health care, and $1.8 billion in lost productivity.
Domestic Violence Often Heads for the Workplace
Domestic violence can spill over into the workplace. Often, if the battered spouse leaves the home, the workplace is the only place that the batterer can find her. Domestic violence affects the workplace in many ways:
- Excess healthcare costs for emergency and physician visits and prescriptions, much of which is paid by employers.
- Battered employee productivity losses, such as missing work, arriving late and leaving early, being distracted, attending legal proceedings, obtaining medical care, suffering injuries or handling threatening phone calls.
- Batterer productivity losses, including missing work, arriving late, attending legal proceedings, difficulty concentrating or excessive use of workplace resources.
- Unauthorized use of company resources to accomplish the stalking or violence, including e-mails, phones and company vehicles.
Take Steps to Prepare for Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Employers have an obligation to make the workplace safer for employees who are victims and others, and eliminate or reduce legal, economic and productivity risks. Sexual and other harassment may violate anti-discrimination laws if the employer knows of hostile environment and does not take reasonable action.
Develop customized workplace protection policies. Check with legal counsel to ensure that these are tailored to applicable Federal, state and local laws (21 states have workplace policies to assist victims of domestic violence). Include victim leave provisions for medical issues and attending legal proceedings.
Create a response team. Activate the team in the event of a domestic violence threat or notice of a restraining order. Select one representative per department, along with human resources, security, legal, union representation and employee assistance plan resource. Establish alert system and roles and responsibilities, and partner with local law enforcement.
Establish steps to take if company becomes aware that employee is a victim of domestic violence. Consider adding more building security, and post photos at reception areas if there is a restraining order. Provide escort services for the victim to and from work transportation and court appearances.
Train supervisors, managers and human resources to support victims. Discuss warning signs, what to say and what subjects to avoid, next steps such as contacting police, restraining order and availability of employee assistance plan. Include warning signs of batterers also.
Host domestic violence informational seminars. Invite community experts to discuss shelters and other local resources, along with employee assistance plan contacts.
Make information available to all employees. Include domestic violence information and related policies in new employee orientation and handbooks