How Domestic Violence Impacts the Workplace: Helpful Tips for Employers

The recent controversy surrounding several National Football League players, including Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and others, has once again brought domestic violence into the spotlight. But domestic violence is not limited to the NFL and can affect all sorts of employers. Here are five helpful tips for employers when confronting this issue.

1. Recognize That Domestic Violence Has A High Cost For Employers.

Domestic violence incidents can lead to lower workplace productivity and well as job performance and attendance issues. What’s more, a failure to properly manage domestic violence victims can lead to lawsuits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws.

An employer may also face tort liability or liability under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for failing to provide a safe and secure workplace free from hazards and for failing to protect other employees from harm should an incident occur at work.

2. Adopt Policies and Provide Training.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status or economic status. Therefore, employers should not turn a blind eye and should develop and implement policies addressing workplace violence and domestic violence.

Employers also should advise employees that hostile, abusive, threatening or violent conduct is against workplace policy and will not be tolerated. Further, victims of domestic violence should be instructed to report if they have obtained a restraining order against another individual so that an employer can take appropriate measures to keep co-workers and the workplace safe.

3. Have A Zero Tolerance Policy.

Employers must show their workforce that they take incidents of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking very seriously and that the employer has a zero tolerance policy for such behavior. While it may be premature to take adverse action against an individual who is involved in a domestic dispute, once an employer has concrete evidence that domestic violence has occurred in the form of a criminal conviction or guilty plea, or that an individual has engaged in hostile, abusive, threatening or violent behavior that violates the employer’s policies, the employer should take appropriate action.

4. Provide Assistance And Reasonable Accommodations To Victims.

Employers should provide resources to help connect domestic violence victims with community resources and social services. Employers should also provide a safe environment and assist domestic violence victims in bringing their complaints to law enforcement.

The EEOC suggests that employers should provide reasonable accommodations to domestic violence victims by, for example, allowing them to take time off to tend to injuries, attend court hearings or provide leave to treat depression in order to avoid discrimination claims under Title VII and the ADA.

A handful of states such as New Jersey permit victims to take time off to attend court or seek medical attention or counseling. It is best practice for employers to be accommodating and provide victims with as much help as they need so they remain effective employees.

5. Avoid Discriminating Against Domestic Violence Victims.

Above all, employers should be aware that some states prohibit discrimination against individuals because they are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking and recognize such individuals as a protected class.

Even if a state does not have a law protecting such victims, remember that discriminating against them may violate federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender or disability. As a result, it is critical for employers to have policies and procedures banning discrimination against victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

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