When the economy dips, domestic violence often increases, affecting your workplace. This is the first of two articles on preventing DV from hitting your office.

Workplace Policy

A proactive approach to domestic violence should include designing and implementing a specific domestic violence in the workplace policy. This will not only protect your organization from liability, it will protect your employees, and help victims of domestic abuse feel supported.

Your policy should, at a minimum:

  • Mitigate the effects of domestic violence in the workplace by providing victims with a link to community resourcesthat offer counseling and advocacy. (Your organization is not required to do this itself.)
  • Heighten awareness about domestic violence among all employees.
  • Address issues related to the need for time off and security.

A more complete approach might:

  • Design an appropriate workplace safety plan, including resources, materials, and training or educational programs, as needed or as funds and time permit.
  • Establish links between your organization and the local domestic violence advocacy community.
  • Review existing employment policies and manuals to ensure that the domestic violence policy and program make sense in the organization’s culture and environment.
  • Review your EAP’s policies and identify those providers who possess the requisite knowledge and experience to identify and respond appropriately to domestic violence.
  • Establish and train an internal Domestic Violence Response Team, composed of designated managers, supervisors, and employees identified as the “go-to-team”. Ensuring that your policy complies with the applicable laws in every jurisdiction in which it conducts business.

A model policy statement for employer use can be found through the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence website. Leading companies (like Verizon, Liz Claiborne, and others) have created successful programs as well.

Safety Procedures

There are a number of security measures you can take to protect both the victim of domestic violence and all your employees. These procedures will also add protection in the case of a disgruntled former employee seeking to harm the past employer.

Imperative for the Targeted Individual:

  • Consider adjusting parking and office situations (is she in an office with a window on the street; or is her office far from the main cluster?)
  • Arrange for a security escort to and from buildings.
  • Give temporary assignments if possible, so employees can leave on short notice if necessary.
  • Be sure she knows what she can and should do if the abuser comes to work.
  • Attempt to prevent gossip about an abused individual’s situation
  • If she has a protection order, be sure security guards and the front desk have a copy, as well as a photo of the individual.
  • Help her develop a safety plan (Legal Momentum Organization website has some examples.)

Protecting Everyone:

  • Minimal security against unauthorized persons (check-in or badges help.)
  • Provide informational pamphlets in private places, like restrooms.
  • Establish staggered, flexible work hours.
  • Raise awareness: Use posters during October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month); organize clothes or toy drives for battered women’s shelters; or otherwise connect with the anti-DV community to let employees know you care.
  • Increase sensitivity: Provide training for managers, and for the DV contact team– about how to recognize the signs of domestic violence in their staff and how to discuss the workplace policies around the issue.
  • EducateEmployee training, brown bag seminars, newsletter articles, and brochures on domestic violence all create an environment where it is safe to talk about domestic violence.

Jennifer J. Halpern, Ph.D.

A social psychologist with a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of California, Berkeley, Halpern brings nearly 20 years’ of consulting, research, and teaching experience in the areas of business relationships, communication, conflict resolution, and strategy to help individuals and companies make important decisions.

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