How To Identify Signs of Domestic Violence in Your Workplace

From Milwaukee’s FEI Behavioral Health – The Workforce Resilience Experts – As recent events have proven, acts of domestic violence in the workplace not only pose a threat to the victim but also potentially to co-workers and customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. In addition, the annual cost of lost productivity in the workplace due to domestic violence totals $727.8 million. In order to create an organizational culture that promotes employee safety, managers should be trained to recognize and respond to signs of domestic violence among employees.

Domestic violence includes a pattern of repeated physical or psychological behavior used to coerce, intimidate, humiliate or force another person to think, feel or behave in a manner that the batterer dictates. It includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, economic reprisals, emotional put-downs, threats and intimidation.

Domestic Violence Follows a Cycle of  Three Stages

1. The tension state is where stress between partners becomes intense. The victim will often try to ease the abuser’s stress in an attempt to avoid the violence.
2. The explosive stage involves the actual violence. Violence can take any form and is not exclusively physical.
3. The honeymoon stage is the time that the abuser is extremely remorseful and committed to “never doing it again.” The victim often chooses to believe the promises. Unfortunately, the cycle of violence usually continues. Identifying that the cycle is part of your life is often the first step toward help. While the cycle is not easy to break, the violence will continue unless help is secured.

When signs of domestic violence enter the workplace managers must take swift action and understand how to appropriately address changes in behavior that affects employee performance. Managers should consider the following:

✅  Develop workplace safety response plans and provide reasonable means to assist victimized employees in developing and implementing individualized workplace safety strategies.
✅  Incorporate a specific intimate partner violence clause in your general policies on workplace safety. Make sure your policy addresses performance issues related to victims of domestic violence, provides accountability for employees who use company property (mail, e-mail, letters, phones) to harass a family or household member, and outlines the rights of domestic violence victims as they relate to the use of company time and resources to handle domestic violence and/or resulting legal issues.
✅  Post information on domestic violence and available resources in the work site in places where employees can obtain it without having to request it or be seen removing it, such as employee rest rooms, lounge areas, as inserts in employee benefits packages and/or as part of new employee orientation.
✅  Stay clear of common pitfalls, such as offering personal advice or attempting to counsel. Instead, employees should be referred to their EAP or a domestic violence help hotline.

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