One of the toughest situations I ever handled as an HR professional began when a group of employees came to me to express concern about a co-worker. A young woman in their department was showing up at work with an increasing number of obvious, visible bruises. These employees were convinced that the employee was being beaten at home by her spouse.
I was fortunate to have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that I was able to call for advice on how to have a conversation with the affected employee and direct her to the help she needed. The EAP coached me before the conversation and was ready for the referral. Thanks to caring employees and available resources we were able to provide support to the woman.
A 2005 national telephone survey conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found that 21% of full-time employees were victims of domestic violence. Of these 64% indicated that their work performance was significantly impacted. Victims of domestic violence at home can also face the threat of an abuser looking for them at work. The situation could escalate to threaten the safety of the entire workplace.
Experts recommend a company policy combined with awareness training. This may seem daunting to small and even mid-sized businesses. The US Department of Justice maintains a list of State Domestic Violence Coalitions. This includes many free local resources that are eager to help employers.
If you think one of your employees is a victim of domestic violence contact your EAP. If you don’t have an EAP the behavioral or mental health contacts at your health care provider should be able to give you advice. This is also the time to seek out local resources. A 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-7233.
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Denial, thinking that no one in the workplace could be a victim of domestic violence is a dangerous attitude for a company and its employees.