Despite costs, 65% of employers do not have a formal domestic violence policy

Original Article: Valerie Bolden-Barrett, HR Dive | Feb. 15, 2018

Dive Brief:

  • Violence between domestic partners is a workplace problem as much as a public health problem, reports Fortune. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in four women, one in 10 men and half of transgender people will face violence from a partner in their lifetime, and nearly half of all women who are murdered are killed by a domestic partner.
  • Abusers take violence into the workplace by confronting the intended victim on the job. Citing the results from a Maine Department of Labor survey, Fortune says 78% of the abusers polled used the workplace to express anger, harass, pressure or threaten their victim; 74% gained access to their partner's workplace; and 21% contacted the victim at work while under a restraining order.  
  • Besides the victims, employers bear much of the burden of domestic violence. Lost productivity, medical care and mental health services cost employers more than $8 billion a year. Despite the high cost, Fortune says 65% of companies don't have formal workplace domestic violence policies.

Dive Insight:

Most employers might not have formal workplace domestic violence policies, but some states have adopted paid "safe days" policies to help victims of domestic violence by allowing them days off for medical appointments, court dates, protective service appointments and finding shelter from abusers. Domestic violence victims are often distracted at work because of their struggles with violence-related issues. According to the Joint Center for Poverty Research at Northwestern University, domestic violence causes 25% to 50% of victims to lose their jobs.

New York City has a paid leave law for victims of domestic and sexual assault. California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon and Vermont have leave laws, paid and unpaid, for domestic violence victims.

Employers in states or cities without "safe days" or paid leave laws for domestic violence might still be required to protect victims and not discriminate against them under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC's) "Questions and Answers: The Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking."

Employers must know their obligations, but they can also draft their own policies and programs to protect employees who are victims. When workplaces show empathy for workers, employee retention and engagement is often the ROI.