“Shhh, It’s None Of Our Business.” Domestic Violence Creeps In At Work.


Out here in the hinterlands of the HR world, otherwise known as “outplacement”, we’ve noticed a spike in domestic violence impacting the lives of the candidates, companies, and communities in which we work.  Now, the below incident didn’t happen at one of our project locations; however, it did happen.

In Panama City, Fla., a man called the restaurant where is wife worked and threatened “to drive my truck through the building and kill everyone,” following a domestic dispute with his wife.  He did just that, crashing into the establishment and hitting his wife.  She was taken to the hospital, and he was arrested for attempted murder. This was just one of the estimated 13,000 acts of violence against women at work each year by their domestic partners.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crimes released these findings regarding domestic violence invading the workplace regarding employed, battered women:

  • 74 percent were harassed by their partners while they were at work·
  • 56 percent arrived one hour late to work five times per month.
  • 54 percent missed at least three full days of work each month·
  • 20 percent of those murdered by their partners were murdered at their workplace·
  • 78 percent of Human Resource Directors identify domestic violence as a substantial employee problem.
  • Each year lost productivity and earnings due to domestic violence totals $1.8 billion

A pregnant mother of three was killed at the San Diego-area office where she worked by an ex-boyfriend delivering her roses. Before the gunman left the building, he also shot and wounded a doctor working in the same building. – source: San Diego Union Tribune, June 13, 2007.

Leaders and owners of businesses take the position that domestic abuse is a personal and private matter. They are uncomfortable and confused about how to respond. Other challenges exist in dealing with these issues:  the cost of providing services, ignorance, fear, and awkwardness around the issues of cultural and social beliefs.

Believe it or not, some employers view the easiest fix as the terminating the employee who is the abuser’s target.   A threat of workplace violence from a co-worker to a customer to a stranger, or in this case a husband is the responsibility of the employer. Statistically, one in four women is affected, and the problem(s) can clearly involve unknowing employees. Terminating employees over their partners’ threats traumatizes the employee and exposes the company to liability issues. Further, if other employees are aware of such actions, they will not notify employers of threats. These organizations are then unprepared to take appropriate actions required to avoid incidents.

A man is wanted in a double-homicide for gunning down his former girlfriend and her boyfriend in the parking lot of the beauty salon where she worked. – source: Sacramento Bee, Nov. 18, 2007.

What you can do in the workplace?

Educate: Utilize domestic violence experts in the local community to train and educate your staff at no or low-cost. The local Chamber of Commerce or domestic abuse service providers can furnish referrals and recommendations. Those service providers could also be an ongoing resource for your organization in training your managers to understand the effects of domestic abuse; how to recognize and react to threats or acts of violence; and how to refer abused employees for services.

An abusive husband involved in an ongoing separation and child custody situation shot and wounded his wife as she drove into the parking lot in Los Angeles where she worked. The man was later arrested in Mexico. Source: KTLA TV News, October, 20, 2008.

Deploy Policies and Procedures: Integrate domestic violence policies with other policies on health, security and life safety. Include protocols of how to react to threats to employees at the workplace. A security expert could be utilized to assist in integrating appropriate policies and procedures with security and safety planning.

A school bus driver and mother of three was found stabbed to death in her bus, and her live-in boyfriend of six years – and the father of her youngest child – was arrested for murder. – source: CBS News, May 2, 2007.

Refer: Provide referral sources for employee assistance through Employee Assistance Programs or local domestic violence agencies. Hang posters in break rooms or time clock area; distribute pamphlets informing employees about domestic violence, and post local and national support phone numbers. The information should also be included in employee handbooks and company literature. Provide employees with immediate help should they need it.

A woman was shot and killed by estranged husband at the daycare center where she worked. Several children were found huddled uninjured in a bathroom, spattered with the victim’s blood. A three-year-old was heard telling his teacher, “We saw a monster.” – source: newspress.com, Jan. 25, 2008.

Respond: Take action on any threat or act of violence in the workplace just as you would with other internal or external threats. Managers and supervisors should be trained on appropriate actions to prevent and react to threats or acts of violence. All threats of violence to the workplace should be reported to local law enforcement.

A woman employee at a Jacksonville company was ambushed and shot as she arrived to work, and her live-in boyfriend (and suspect) killed himself eight hours later in an armed standoff. Source: WOKV.com July 22, 2008.

Threats and violence affecting the workplace is a serious, recognizable and preventable problem. According to OSHA, more than 70 percent of workplaces in the U.S. do not have formal workplace violence programs or policies in place. If your workplace falls into that category, take a proactive approach. Create a plan so employees and management know what to do if a violent situation is threatened or occurs. Provide avenues for your employees to come forward with their fears without retaliation.

Don’t wait until your business is shown on the local newscast with a truck parked in your demolished dining room or your staff is threatened. Your employees are your greatest asset. Keep them out of harm’s way with proactive training and education. They need your help and support.

A murder-suicide claimed the life of a young Atlanta legal secretary who was killed outside her office building by a man with whom she worked and occasionally dated. After the shooting, the assailant turned the gun on himself. – source: Atlanta Journal, April 29, 2008.


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Posted on September 28, 2011, in Employee Relations, Health & Safety and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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