We recently blogged about a spike in domestic violence as a side effect to the troubled economy, and how this “home” problem often has very real implications for the workplace, ranging from a loss of productivity to heightened security risks. Since this topic has been much on our mind lately, we were pleased to see that Human Resources Executive recently featured an in-depth series on the topic. It offers enough quality tools and resources that we thought the issue was worth revisiting again.
In the lead article, Violently Ill, author Jared Shelly notes that studies have shown that 84 percent of surveyed employees believe that employers should be involved in the solution to the problem of domestic abuse, while just 13 percent of executives think it’s the company’s job to help solve the problem. Yet the article quotes a 2003 CDC study that says that domestic violence accounts for nearly 8 million lost work days, the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs.
Beyond productivity, there are other reasons why domestic violence needs to command the attention of employers:
If an employer fails to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence, it could not only prove life-threatening for the victim, but the company could also be held liable. In the case of La Rose vs. State Mutual Life Assurance Co. in 1994, the family of Francesia La Rose filed a wrongful-death action against her employer after she was murdered by a former boyfriend at the worksite for failing to protect her after being notified of the specific threat. The case was settled for $350,000.
The specific laws on domestic violence vary from state to state. Several — Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, North Carolina and Washington — force companies to allow workers to take leave if they are victims of domestic violence.
Some, such as Florida, which enacted its law in July 2007, mandate that companies with more than 50 employees must give three days of leave to victims during a 12-month period. The leave can be paid or unpaid.
The law in Washington, enacted in April, applies to public or private companies regardless of size.
The article also offers concrete suggestions for what an employer should do to face this issue, along with a case history from State Farm Insurance. Some of the steps that State Farm takes to help affected employees include referring employees to an EAP for counseling, offering safety tips, providing escorts in and out of the building, putting the abuser on a “Do Not Admit” list, assigning special parking spots, screening telephone calls, eliminating the employee’s name from the automated telephone directory and having paychecks delivered to other addresses.