Tackling domestic abuse when it reaches the workplace

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Domestic violence is not always limited to the four walls of the home. It can also extend to the victim's workplace, which will negatively affect both the victim and their place of employment. Virginia employers have a stake in this issue; it has been estimated that nationwide, companies lose almost $5 billion a year because domestic violence reduces employees' productivity and results in a great deal of absenteeism from work.

Even if an employee has not discussed or reported domestic violence issues in the workplace, colleagues and management may still assess the situation if the victim reports to work with unexplained bruises and injuries, has a difficult time concentrating at work or is frequently absent from work. Unsolicited phone calls intended to harass or threaten, and disruptive personal visits to the workplace by the abuser are also warning signs that must be addressed. Sometimes, domestic violence victims may behave erratically or have a tendency to withdraw socially. The abuse victim's colleagues should pay close attention to such behavior and take the proper action that is required in the situation.

Many organizations have policies that address domestic violence. To protect employees from domestic violence, co-workers can encourage the victim to speak with management to obtain the necessary help. Management can refer the victim to services and organizations that help domestic violence victims. A workplace safety plan may also be implemented along with training on how to handle family violence issues. The employer should ensure that the privacy of a victim is protected and total confidentiality is maintained at all times in such cases.

Protective orders are often effective in keeping the abuser away from the victim. Consulting an attorney with experience in domestic violence issues can be a critical first step for a victim.

Source: AlexandriaVA.gov, "Domestic Violence," accessed May 14, 2015

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