Employers who view domestic violence as a personal problem unrelated to the workplace are dead wrong. In addition to impacting the victim’s productivity, absenteeism, health and emotional well-being, domestic violence can become workplace violence if the abuser seeks out the victim at work. This is a serious workplace safety concern that might be more prevalent than you think.
“Any large or mid-sized company absolutely has this problem,” said Pamela Paziotopoulos, Esq., senior vice president of the workplace violence and intimate partner violence division at Forest Advisors. “I’m here to tell you no one’s immune.”
Paziotopoulos, who for years worked as a prosecutor specializing in domestic violence cases, spoke at an April 9 workplace violence seminar in Cleveland to discredit common myths surrounding intimate partner violence and explain why employers must address this issue.
Domestic Violence Myths
The typical domestic violence victim or situation might not be the same you picture in your mind. According to the “Silent Storm” video from the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, the top myths surrounding domestic violence include:
- Myth 1: Smart, successful people are not victims of domestic violence. Paziotopoulos explained that professional, successful and powerful women are not immune to domestic violence – in fact, she’s handled many such cases firsthand.
- Myth 2: Domestic violence isn’t a workplace issue; it’s a private issue. In reality, domestic violence spills over into the workplace.
- Myth 3: Only violent incidents impact the workplace. Many of the effects of domestic violence at work, including absenteeism, damaged morale and distraction, are silent and nearly invisible.
According to Paziotopoulos, intimate partner violence costs companies $3-5 billion a year in lost productivity, health care costs, absenteeism and more. She added that 98 percent of domestic violence victims reported difficulty concentrating at work, 78 percent reported being late to work and 67 percent claimed their abuser came to their workplace. The majority of responding human resources and security professionals – 71 percent – reported an incident of domestic violence occurring on work property.
The Workplace Is Predictable
Many victims of domestic violence fear they will be fired or discriminated against at work if they reveal the abuse. They don’t want to appear weak and prefer to handle the matter on their own. Unfortunately, this strategy can create a threat not only for the victim, but for everyone she works with.
“When you break up with someone, they might not know where you live, but they know where you work,” Paziotopoulos said. “Work hours, parking and location are predictable.”
That predictability often makes the workplace the easiest place for an abuser to track down his victim. If a victim moved out in an attempt to escape her abuser, you can probably guess the first place he’ll look: her place of employment.
Practical Preparedness for Workplace Violence, Part 3: When Domestic Violence Becomes Workplace Violence