Creating a Safe and Supportive Workplace

Three women sit around a corporate table wearing professional business attire.

Show survivors you understand by establishing a disclosure-friendly policy. This will allow employees to feel free to discuss what they are experiencing and have a plan of action when the need arises.

Domestic violence is endemic within our community and society. It breeds the perpetration and perpetuation of crime in our society. With over 85% of Texas inmates having grown up in violent homes and 96% of domestic violence victims experiencing problems at work due to abuse, we know that domestic violence bleeds into every facet of our lives and leaves rampant collateral damage in its wake. All too often, this collateral damage extends far beyond the emotional wounds and terrorizing fear experienced by the victims but creeps into a victim’s relationships, communities and work life.

The harsh reality is the corporate sector is not immune to the harrowing epidemic of domestic violence. Domestic violence costs corporate America over 8.3 billion dollars annually, and over 8 million paid workdays are lost each year within the United States alone. This means more than 32,000 full-time jobs are lost from our economy on an annual basis. Over the course of five years, these numbers look more like 41 billion dollars, 40 million paid workdays, and 160,000 jobs. Our economy is absolutely hemorrhaging productivity and finances at the hands of those who terrorize the ones they purport love.

With nearly 75 million women in the workforce in the United States and 1 in 4 women knowing the horrors of domestic violence in her lifetime, employers must take action. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide a safe workplace for all employees. Therefore, it is every employer’s legal and ethical duty to work tirelessly to create safer environments for their employees and ensure their workforce has access to the support and resources they may need.

At Genesis, we encourage companies to formulate and publish formal workplace policies surrounding the issue of domestic violence and disclosure by employees. Below we have included best practice guidelines for creating an inclusive, comprehensive and stringent risk management policy that ensures all employees are safe, supported and empowered in their workplace.

Domestic Violence and Employee Disclosure Policy Guidelines:

  • Recognize the issue:
    • Include a statement recognizing domestic violence as an equal opportunity epidemic that crosses all racial, social, gender, education and socioeconomic boundaries.
    • Accept that instances of abuse and violence are workplace problems regardless of where they may have occurred.
  • Solidify the Organizational Response:
    • Express support of the victim/survivor as well as the organization’s desire to create a safe and supportive environment.
    • Outline the organization’s zero tolerance policy for abuse, harassment and violence of any sort whether perpetrated by an employee or against an employee.
    • Formulate and disperse a formal incident disclosure/reporting policy.
      • Include the organization’s statement of confidentiality regarding disclosure of instances of harassment, abuse and violence.
    • Include policy surrounding response to victims including the following:
      • A non-discrimination or retaliation policy.
      • Additional personal leave and other reasonable accommodations needed to address the situation of harassment, abuse or violence.
      • Access to unemployment benefits if the employee is unable to continue working.
    • Provide Help:
      • Provide a comprehensive list of local resources. We highly recommend encouraging HR directors to extensively educate and familiarize themselves with these local resources.
    • Formulate a Plan:
      • Create and disperse a workplace safety plan surrounding issues of harassment, abuse and violence.
      • Develop a formal policy surrounding protective orders secured by employees.

Written by Julia Palmer, director of corporate and foundation relations for Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.

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