When Domestic Violence Becomes a Workplace Business Risk


Let’s start this conversation by remembering that the R in GRC stands for Risk. And while we normally think of risk in terms of business operations and regulatory compliance, we should always consider the risks to our most valuable assets – our employees. Organizations have the duty to maintain a proper work environment that keeps their employees safe from harm, which includes protecting them from threats that come from outside the doors of the enterprise.

A Corporate Counsel article quoting findings from the law firm Seyfarth Shaw says that domestic violence that spills over into the workplace accounts for $1.8 billion in lost productivity every year, and upwards of $5 billion when employer-paid health care costs are added. To make matters worse, 7 out of 10 businesses have no formal policy in place to address domestic violence and how it can affect workplace safety. Those numbers should stand as a wake-up call to organizations to take a look at their employee policies and make sure that domestic violence is adequately addressed.

US Department of Labor statistics show that more than a third of workplace fatalities are homicides, and almost a third of those are women who were victims of violence. OSHA stats say that two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. We hear all too often of other employees getting caught up in violent acts where the target for the attack unintentionally brought the confrontation into the workplace.

There are three key areas where organizations need to focus their attention to mitigate the risks of domestic violence: policies, training and awareness. First, employee policies should address critical issues such as domestic violence, high-risk patterns of behavior – and protections – as a part of standard workplace safety protocols.

Would-be victims need the same level of protection (some would say even more) than required for a whistleblower against retaliation. As part of your policy, have a solid Threat Response Program in place and avoid the one-stop solution of “we can always just call the police.”

Second, employees need to be trained on workplace safety issues that go beyond operational threats such as those addressed by OSHA. Not only should employees understand what workplace violence might look like between co-workers, they also need to be aware of outside threats. Training should also include the third key area, awareness, and include communications on how employees can report situations where they or their fellow employees might be in imminent danger. [Note: The Network will be releasing our new "Workplace Safety: Protecting Your Employees" course in early 2014].

Need more proof? According to Cosmopolitan Magazine, “one in four large employers reports a threat due to domestic violence each year.”

Don’t let it be you!

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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