Thousands of workers suffer abuse at home and, all too often, this violence spills over into the workplace. According to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, there are 30,000 to 40,000 incidents of on-the-job violence a year in which the victims knew their attackers intimately. More than seven in ten (71%) human resources and security personnel surveyed have seen domestic-related violence at work.

A violent episode on the job can endanger co-workers, as well as the victim. What’s more, female workers abused at home have higher rates of absenteeism, drug abuse, and depression that increase health insurance costs and lower productivity – costing businesses more than $4.5 billion a year.

The law requires employers to provide all employees with a safe workplace. Failure to act on the knowledge that domestic violence could threaten workers makes your business legally liable.

In deciding whether an employee might be a victim of domestic violence, beware if the worker:

  • has unexplained bruises that don’t fit their injuries
  • wears inappropriate clothing that might be covering up injuries
  • seems distracted, anxious, upset, or depressed
  • has a high rate of absenteeism
  • receives repeated, upsetting telephone calls

If you notice any of these signs, talk to the employee privately, expressing concern about possible abuse. Be supportive and keep this information confidential, except for individuals who need to know, such as security personnel. Offer company and community support and be flexible with the employee’s working arrangements.

According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, supervisors are usually the first people to become aware of an employee who might be a domestic violence victim. Supervisors should refer potential victims to the Employee Assistance Program or a community domestic violence program. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

A word to the wise!

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