There has been a lot written – both here and elsewhere — about what steps employers should take to curb sexual harassment, but what do you do when an employee is a victim of domestic violence that occurs outside of workplace?
Surveys have found that one in five women in the United States is now or has been involved in an abusive relationship, and at least 44% of Americans say they know of someone who is in an abusive relationship. In addition, 21% of surveyed employees report that they have been victims of domestic violence.
“Employers may want to have policies and protocols in place that create a culture where victims of domestic violence feel empowered to come forward and potential perpetrators of violence can access resources designed to help them before they act out,” suggests Luther Wright, Jr., an attorney with the law firm of Ogletree Deakins.
Employers also should look at how they become aware of domestic violence and what actions they should take after they learn it’s happening, he says.
They need to learn about the potential risk of lawsuits arising from adverse employment actions taken based on domestic violence, and how they can protect employees from others who might be the perpetrators of domestic violence, Wright urges.
“Workplace safety would be the biggest concern when the alleged victim is also an employee,” he stresses.
In that case, he urges employers to focus on ensuring adherence to any restraining orders, making sure the alleged victim feels safe and is not retaliated against, and seeking to prevent other employees from being threatened with violence or subjected to it because they support the victim.