Thursday, November 29, 2007

"If We Do It For You, We'll Have to Do It For Everyone Else" - A "Removing the Target" Approach to Domestic Violence and the Workplace

Someone recently shared a story with me about a situation where an employee had a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend and went to a security officer at her workplace to ask if she could have an escort to her vehicle because she was concerned the ex might show up at the workplace - and it was an open sort of workplace where a person could easily show up and have access -- like a campus or mall. (I am trying not to give too much identifying information here.)

The security person's response was, "No -- because if we do it for you, we'll have to do it for everyone else."

The person who told me this story was shocked, but this "knee-jerk" first reaction does not really surprise me. It is what I often put in the category of "removing the target."

What I mean by "removing the target" is this --sometimes a workplace sees that the victim of domestic violence has an abuser who is harassing and calling and visiting and bothering not only the victim but co-workers and the place of business. So the employer will say "Hey -- get that person to stop bugging you here, or we are going to have to fire you." And then if it does not stop, they say "We warned you, and now we have to fire you."

The problem is -- they removed the target -- but they have now created a disincentive for ANYONE else to EVER report if they have an abusive person threatening them at work because they have seen what happens. You get fired.

So what happens when another abused employee does not share a concern someday and an ex comes to work with a gun -- and no one is prepared? (And this does not even take into consideration the laws in some states and municipalities that do not allow a victim of domestic violence to be fired simply because that person is a victim OR because the abuser is disrupting the workplace.)

Violence prevention is much smarter than "removing the target." And in the example I started with, I would hate to be the workplace that knew about a potential threat (because the employee informed them) and then something deadly happened.

I am pretty sure "If we do this for you, we have to do this for everyone" is not a good defense in court, and it is not the position ANY workplace wants to take if someone is injured or dies.

(If you need help or want more information on developing workplace policies and practices, check our CAEPV website at

No comments: