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Domestic Violence in the Workplace

While historically considered a private and personal issue, awareness campaigns and public education about domestic violence have made it unacceptable for employers to ignore this serious problem. Regardless of whether victims are abused at home or at work, the abuse will ultimately affect their professional life or even jeopardize their safety at work and the safety of their co-workers.

Why Should an Employer Intervene?

Domestic violence travels with a victim, from the home to the workplace. It often has a significant effect on a victim's performance in the workplace. It results in increased absenteeism, lower productivity and quality of work, and higher medical costs.

Many employers feel uncomfortable addressing the problem or feel that there is nothing they can do. Although it may not be easy, it is crucial to educate employees about the signs of domestic violence in order to create a work environment that encourages victims to seek help.

Recognizing when an employee might be in a domestic violence situation

  • Bruises/injuries

  • Disclosure to other employees (even joking)

  • Fear of the partner, references to the partner's anger

  • Nervousness

  • Anxiety

  • Abuser calls or visits employee at work frequently

  • Many sick days - high absenteeism

  • Decreased productivity and attentiveness

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)


What an employer can do to help:

Be supportive:

  • Let the employee know that you are there for him/her when he/she is ready to talk.

  • You could say, "No one deserves to be hit by someone else"

  • Let victim know you're concerned. You could say, "I am concerned for your safety and there are resources in our organization and in the community that can help you. I am here for you when you need help."

  • Be patient; People will take action to leave an abusive situation when they are ready

  • Talk in a quiet place. A comfortable, safe atmosphere will convey a message of confidentiality, importance and seriousness

  • Respect an employee's decision not to disclose

  • Be open and flexible with requests from employee for time off to things related to leaving the abuser (moving out, filing protection orders, attending court, etc)

  • Encourage the employee to contact Beacon Center (605) 886-4300 or 1-800-660-8014 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.


Let the victim know that you want to help keep them safe at work.  Ask what changes could be made to make him/her feel safer--remember, the victim knows the perpetrator better than anyone else.  Some ways to do this:

  •  Encourage him/her to save any threatening e-mail or voicemail messages.  These can potentially be used for future legal action, or can serve as evidence that an existing  protection order was violated.

  • Make arrangements for the victim to have priority parking near the building.

  • Have calls screened, transferring harassing calls to security--or have his/her name removed from automated phone directories.

  • Relocate the victim's work space to a more secure area or another site.

  • Obtain a protection order that includes the workplace, and keep a copy on hand at all times. The victim may want to consider providing a copy to the police, his/her supervisor, security, or human resources. 

  • Provide a picture of the perpetrator to reception areas and/or security.

  • Identify an emergency contact person should the employer be unable to contact the victim.

  • Ask security to escort the employee to and from vehicle or public transportation.

  • Keep the information confidential


Your first responsibility is to keep the workplace safe for all employees.  By taking these steps, you can help the employee who is in a domestic violence situation keep his/her job and possibly gain enough strength to leave the abusive partner.  You are also protecting your employees.  It is frightening to have an abusive person come or call the workplace, but please remember to be supportive of your employee who is trying to survive the situation.  You could be helping to literally save his/her life.

For more information call Beacon Center at 1-800-660-8014 or 605-886-4300.

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