Let me give you a scenario:
There are several domestic violence situations between an employee and his girlfriend. And one of these incidents has taken place in view of the workplace. And the alleged abuser is a high level, high profile employee.
What should the boss do?
(Did I mention the boss is well-known as one who takes a strong stand against domestic violence?)
Should the boss:
1) Intervene in the situation to try to get it "taken care of?"
2) Follow any applicable workplace policies?
3) Do nothing as it is none of the bosses' business? (After all, there was only one altercation that allegedly took place at or around the workplace.)
If you answered #2, you are right. The boss should follow whatever policies and protocols are appropriate for any employee of that particular workplace regarding this issue - no matter how high profile or high level this employee might be.
Unfortunately that is not always the case. And as you may have read in the news, this appears to not be the case in the situation with New York Governor Paterson and one of his aides. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/nyregion/02paterson.html
What makes this situation concerning for so many people is that Governor Paterson is not an ordinary boss - he is a Governor with the ability to direct State Police and other officials. He is also a boss who has taken a stand against domestic violence.
He is also a governor who has signed an Executive Order for all state agencies in New York to have policies (and training) regarding domestic violence and its impact on the workplace: http://www.opdv.state.ny.us/professionals/workplace/execorder19.html
But I see something else - I see a boss using his powers to help an alleged abuser. And it may surprise you to learn this is not new. In fact, in my work, this is not new at all. It is not uncommon for employers to bail abusers out of jail because they are "good workers" and they don't want to lose them.
In this case, the victim of abuse was actually surprised the court would hear her because of the influence of her alleged abuser http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/nyregion/25transcript.html?ref=nyregion
While I find this whole situation incredibly sad, and awful for the victim of domestic violence (who it appears could not even completely trust the State Police in this case), I am unfortunately not surprised.
While this individual situation needs to be dealt with as a very serious case, we also need to look at it in the broader context of what happens to many victims of domestic violence who have no where to go or no where to turn because of bosses who "help" abusers, or bosses who fire victims because they "won't get that threatening boyfriend/girlfriend to stop showing up here." We need to make sure that our workplace policies are followed. No matter who they impact. Or how high up that person is in our organization.
Because victims -- and batterers -- can be anywhere in our workplaces. And to think differently or act differently makes us all susceptible to putting victims of domestic violence in situations where they are at risk. Or batterers in a position where we "help" them continue to batter.
(If you want to know what you can do to address domestic violence as a workplace issue, I invite you to visit our website at http://www.caepv.org/)