October 22, 2015

Domestic violence takes toll on workers and the workplace

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
domestic violence ribbon

Domestic violence touches many people, and not just in their homes. Employees who are subjected to violence at home often have frequent absences and poor performance on the job and, in some cases, victims are even afraid of being stalked at work because the perpetrator knows that's where to find them.

Recently, the Cornell University's Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution and The Worker Institute held a webinar to look at the tools that can be used to thwart these situations. Their efforts are shining a light on another aspect of this dangerous problem during October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"This is still an issue that's under the radar," said Sally Klingel, director, labor-management relations, Scheinman Institute, moderator of the webinar.


The National Network to End Domestic Violence encourages everyone to wear purple during the month, using it as a conversation starter to talk about this harmful issue.

Also, how about the EDV Thunderclap? Join the national #PurpleThursday Thunderclap at 4:30 on Oct. 22. Sign up now!

Workplaces are often the scenes for domestic and sexual violence and stalking because they may serve as the only place where a perpetrator can readily locate or access an intended victim, according to Workplaces Respond to Sexual and Domestic Violence National Resource Center. A work location provides the perpetrator with a victim's predictable schedule.

Domestic violence is not limited to physical or sexual violence. It can include emotional/psychological harm; threats to family and friends; threats to property and economic coercion, the Scheinman Institute reports.

While visible trouble may never actually erupt at work, domestic violence tears at and wears on employees who are victims of harm at home. They may miss work, need time off, have both physical and mental health ailments, and may have performance issues on the job, according to the the Scheinman Institute.

A victim is often afraid to reveal the situation for fear of being judged, said Kenneth Dolan-Del Vecchio, vice-president of health and wellness for Prudential Insurance Company who was a panelist during the webinar. The root of performance problems may indeed be domestic violence fallout. Workplaces need to consider how to provide protection and protect a person's privacy, he said.

Role, resource and responsibility are the three factors a workplace needs to have in place to address this health and safety issue, said panelist K.C .Wagner, director of workplace issues at The Worker Institute and co-chair of Equity at Work Initiative at Cornell's Industrial and Labor Relations School.

Perpetrators present their own kind of problems in the office or at the job site. More than three-quarters of perpetrators used workplace resources "at least once to express remorse or anger, check up on, pressure or threaten the victim," according to Workplaces Respond to Sexual and Domestic Violence.

The Cornell University study recommends that a comprehensive workplace response to domestic violence include:

  • Conducting a general security assessment
  • Creating a supportive workplace culture
  • Establishing a multidisciplinary team
  • Raising awareness
  • Assessing existing policies
  • Conducting training
  • Developing relationships with local service providers and law enforcement

The Scheinman Institute and the Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence National Resources Center suggest assessments can include evaluating the following:

  • Do non-employees have to present ID or interact with security?
  • Do parking lots and paths have sufficient lighting?
  • Are there areas of the work site where employees are isolated or alone for long periods of time?
  • Change the employee's telephone number, or route calls through a receptionist
  • Change the employee's hours or shift, and perhaps change the employee's work location to another building or branch.

Supervisors, co-workers, human resource and union leaders and dispute resolution professionals can identify potential situations of intimate partner violence and respond, according to the webinar panelists, including Marlon Walker, coordinator of men and boys' programs at CONNECT, a New York City based non-profit organization dedicated to preventing interpersonal violence and promoting gender justice.

Workplace Violence Prevention eReport provides tools for preventing workplace violence at www.workplacesrespond.org.


Follow the link to access the Domestic Violence Census Count online. During one 24-hour period last year, 67,646 domestic violence victims were served in one day by agencies in the U.S.

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