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Does Your Company Need a Domestic Violence Workplace Policy?


September 11, 2014
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As we are learning from the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice from the NFL, domestic violence often follows both perpetrators and victims from home and into the workplace.

In response this reality, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently adopted a Model Workplace Policy on Employer Responses to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking.

domestic violenceWhile not legally required, the ABA encourages employers to enact formal policies on workplace responses to the problems of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking violence. Besides directly impacting the parties involved, domestic violence can impact workplace morale, productivity and even an employer’s bottom line. In response to the public uproar over the tepid discipline originally meted out to Ray Rice, the Ravens football team and the NFL, after revisiting the violent acts so vividly recorded in the Atlantic City hotel’s elevator, significantly stiffened the punishment to meet the public’s reaction which was threatening to damage the League’s goodwill.

In support of the new model policy, the ABA provided the following statistics, which are likely eye opening for many business owners and executives:

  • According to a 2006 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one in four large private industry establishments (with more than 1,000 employees) reported at least one onsite incidence of domestic violence, including threats and assaults, in the past year.
  • The Department of Justice estimates that eight percent of rapes occur while the victim is working.
  • A nationwide survey found that 55 percent of senior executives believe domestic violence hurts their businesses’ productivity, 61 percent indicated that their insurance and health care costs increased due to domestic violence, 70 percent found their worker attendance affected by domestic violence, and 55 percent found domestic violence to be a cause of employee turnover.
  • One study found that 78 percent of abusers reported using employer resources in connection with an abusive relationship.

Employers have certain obligations to address domestic violence under state and federal law, such as investigating sexual harassment claims or providing disability accommodations to victims of violence. While not legally required to implement workplace policies addressing domestic violence, the voluntary adoption of such policies fosters a healthy and productive workplace.

The ABA’s model policy addresses a number of different issues, including the assistance available to employees who are impacted by violence, the creation of a workplace safety plan, the confidentiality protections in place, and the potential disciplinary action to employees who are perpetrators of violence. Employers are encouraged to work with experienced counsel to develop policies and procedures that meet their needs.

If you have questions about the ABA model policy or would like to discuss how your business can address domestic violence in the workpace, please contact me or the Scarinci Hollenbeck Labor and Employment attorney with whom you work.