Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Domestic violence does spill into the workplace, right?

That’s what the gentleman was asking.  I assumed by his tone, he was asking on behalf of an employee who had been wrongly dismissed.

I was wrong.

He was asking on behalf of an employer who had dismissed an employee after the victim of abuse had not “fulfilled a personal safety plan” in the manner the employer asked. So the victim was fired.  He indicated they thought they had a pretty good case for dismissing the employee.

I asked “Does the employer have a workplace violence policy or procedures that were followed?”

I don’t know.

I asked “What did the employer do to keep the employee safe?  What would the employer have done if it was a customer bothering the employee?  Or what if had been a co-worker threatening the employee?”

I don’t know.

“What was involved in this personal safety plan the employee was supposed to create and follow?”

I don’t know.

“Was the employer listed on an order of protection?”

I don’t know.

“Was the employee provided community resources to help with this safety planning?”

I don’t know.

“So the victim was just supposed to be personally responsible for being safe at work when there was a known potential for workplace violence?”

I don’t know.

I told him that if the employer had been located in a different state or municipality, firing this employee because of the domestic violence situation would have been potentially illegal.   

I also explained that while it might seem expedient, it was not in the employer’s enlightened self-interest to simply “remove the target.”

This was not going to keep the rest of the workforce safe in the long run. What would happen in the abuser showed up and didn’t believe that the former employee no longer worked there?

The employer did not seem to have a plan for handling workplace violence in general.  I explained that in the case of this kind of workplace violence (domestic violence impacting the workplace) the employer had created a situation where it was likely no one else who was dealing with domestic violence was going to come forward to share their situation -- especially if they had an abuser threatening to come to the workplace.  Wouldn’t they be afraid to share that based on what happened to this employee? (Not to mention the fact that the employer was no more prepared to deal with domestic violence impacting the workplace now than they were before this employee was dismissed.)

I explained it made more sense to have a policy and plan for dealing with domestic violence from the employer perspective BECAUSE it impacts the workplace.  To plan from the employer perspective to keep employees safe. Rather than expecting that from the employee.   Not just for domestic violence impacting the workplace…but any kind of workplace violence.   

He asked if the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) helps employers develop policies and programs to address domestic violence as a workplace issue. I said that is exactly what we do – and we know how to help employers keep their employees and workplaces safe and productive.

He was a really nice guy.  He really didn’t know that there were better ways to handle domestic violence as a workplace issue.  He didn’t realize that other employers have found better ways to do it.  And I think he really understood that perhaps the employer had not done the best thing. For anyone.

I think he understood what I was saying.  

But I don’t know.


KWG said...

God I hope he did. This goes back to the core problem with domestic violence as seen by outsiders (and even insiders as well) -- that the victim is seen as part of the problem, if not the problem, and that if you remove the problem, then wallah, domestic violence won't spill into the workplace.

The responsibility falls on all of us to prevent domestic violence.

AD Ramsey said...

Frightening and discouraging. I agree that this is a function of our victim-blaming society. It is too easy to absolve ourselves of any responsibility by just shoving victims of violence back into the shadows and telling them to be quiet. I'm glad you tried to make this person see the errors that were committed, but it seems to me that someone who was already hurting was just revictimized in this situation. What a shame.

Kim Wells said...

Kevin and Amy - thank you so much for your comments and insights. They go directly to the core of the work we do...and why we have to keep making domestic violence violence "Everybody's Business."

Larry said...

A bit scary and disconcerting that this type of conversation still takes 2011...there is still so much work to do in this area Kim. That is why we are so lucky to have you as a resource.