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Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence

Lately, there’s been a spate of grim headlines about domestic violence resulting in deaths: the professional wrestler who killed his wife and young son and then himself, and the pregnant Ohio mother who was murdered, allegedly by the father of her child. Domestic violence is certainly nothing new but, occasionally, high profile cases such as these bring the issue to the forefront.
Because we spend so much time at work, colleagues and supervisors are often in a unique position to spot signs of domestic violence and employer can often play a critical role in directing the employee to help through referrals to an EAP or other community resource. In the past, the “none of my business” type of thinking often prevailed, but today employers know that problems at home rarely stay at home. All too often, domestic abuse comes right to the workplace:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
  • Of the approximately 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence that occur in the US every year, 18,700 are committed by an intimate partner: a current or former spouse, lover, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
  • Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund identifies an annotated list of seven reasons why employers should address domestic violence. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Domestic violence affects many employees.
  2. Domestic violence is a security and liability concern.
  3. Domestic violence is a performance and productivity concern.
  4. Domestic violence is a health care concern.
  5. Domestic violence is a management issue.
  6. Taking action in response to domestic violence works.
  7. Employers can make a difference.

The site also offers an excellent list of case histories of what some progressive employers are doing to combat domestic violence and suggests a site with actions that both large and small employers can take to combat domestic violence.
Some of the basic things that employers can do include:

  • Instituting a workplace zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence
  • Providing secure work environments
  • Raising awareness of the problem by educating your employee
  • Reminding employees that help is available for domestic violence
  • Training managers and supervisors to be alert for potential signs of domestic abuse
  • Having referral protocols and resources in place for employees who need help – preferably an EAP or a social service experienced in dealing with domestic abuse

Some other good resources include:
American Institute on Domestic Violence
Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Corporate Alliance to End Domestic Violence

4 Responses to Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence

  1. Wally Bock June 29, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    There are good points here, but the overarching tone of the piece disturbs me. The headline is “Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence.” That’s not true. Domestic violence is domestic, not workplace.
    Yes the employer can have options available through the EAP, and the employer should have a safe, violence-free workplace. But the employer does not have anything approaching a “key role” in curbing domestic violence. That role lies elsewhere.

  2. Shannon Munford M.A. MFT, CAMF June 29, 2007 at 11:07 am #

    Any complete workplace violence prevention program should contain an anger management component. Anger Management classes are a preventative measure against desk rage and marital discord.
    Shannon Munford M.A., MFT, CAMF

  3. Kim Wells July 12, 2007 at 9:07 am #

    While I understand Wally’s point, he may not realize that domestic violence significantly impacts workplace safety — in fact, it is considered “Type 4” workplace violence by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Employees do not leave their personal issues at the door when they walk into the workplace and this is especially true for domestic violence when it can become a workplace safety issue.
    In addition, there are the costs related to absenteeism, lost productivity, health-care and turnover.
    An employer is wise to have a program to proactively address the issue that research indicates affects 21% of full-time employed adults in the US.
    I must also say that while EAP is beneficial, one must consider that all EAP programs are not equipped to sufficiently deal with domestic violence — end especially the workplace component.
    For more information, visit the website of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence at

  4. Barry Nixon July 30, 2007 at 1:32 am #

    I applaud your focus and the intent of your commentary, however, it is important that you present accurate information. Workplace Violence is no longer the leading cause of death for women at work. With the drop in the overall numbers it is has moved down to the second leading cause.