Thursday, June 09, 2011

You Don't Want to Be A Headline....At Least Not Like This

If you are a business, you want to be in the headlines for a good reason...a great reason. 

You don't want to be in the headlines like this:  Pfizer Sued Over Domestic Violence Leave.

You can read the story linked above - but the case is basically this:  a victim of domestic violence in Washington State is saying her employer did not follow the law - or even inform her of the law (as required in her state) regarding her situation.

And this is a big employer - that should know the law. And the story itself it just heartbreaking and frightening. 

I don't know the details, I don't know exactly what happened - I only know what I am reading in the story.

I also know this - any employer with a clear understanding of the laws of the state, and a clear policy and program to address domestic violence, and the workplace culture that trains managers to understand how to address it would probably not be in this position.

When employers join the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) we work with them on the policies, programs and infrastructure to help with creating a workplace culture where 1) employees feel safe coming forward and 2) managers know the right thing to do.

It would appear - if this case is exactly as it is written - that the manager did not know the right thing to do. 

That is so sad for so many reasons....not only because the victim did not feel safe, but because the entire workplace was compromised.  And now there is a lawsuit.

I know that often legal counsel will indicate their concern that if "too many things are written down" they may be liable for what they write..or what they do to help a victim of domestic violence.  But as the general counsel for one of our CAEPV member companies says "Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.  I've never seen anyone get sued for a good faith effort to protect victims of domestic violence and a good faith effort to keep them and their workplaces safe.  But I have seen employers sued for doing nothing, or something negligent."

And I have to say I agree.  I am not a lawyer, but I do follow these things pretty closely, and while I have seen a LOT of lawsuits like the one above...I've never seen anyone sued who was trying to help victims of domestic violence at the workplace through a good policy and program.

So - don't be a headline.  Have enlightened self-interest. 

A great place to start is with the steps we recommend which you can find right here.   You can also visit our website at

And if you join us, you can be a headline for a great reason -- making domestic violence "Everybody's Business."

1 comment:

Felix Nater, CSC said...

While I would like to think that there are a plurality of companies that consistently do the right thing, I know that individuals ultimately place workplaces at risk by their irresponsible behavior. Handling issues relative to Domestic Violence in the workplace should no longer be a question of why, but of how. When in doubt secure the assistance of HR or the counsel of your immediate supervisor. Failing to respond appropriately is the risk one takes that places the workplace at risk, jepordizes credibility and raises questions of accountability.

When there is negligence and the facts support the outcome, take swift action to address the irresponsible behavior, correct existing shortcomings and promote a culture of sensitivity & support for victims of Domestic and/or Partner Violence.