Does Domestic Violence Translate Into Workplace Violence?
Absolutely it does! First of all, your workplace violence policy should directly address the requirement to report domestic abuse. It should give clear reasons why and perhaps list examples of cases where domestic violence exploded in the workplace. Did you know that 74% of the reported cases of domestic abuse also reported that some of the abuse actually took place in the victim’s work area? Consider that even if an abused spouse or partner secures a restraining order for the home, or if the victim actually moves; where is the next most predictable place to find that victim?
It used to be that companies did not want to get involved with domestic abuse experienced by one of their employees. There was a ‘check your personal problems at the door’ attitude. That demeanor now is unacceptable and flat out dangerous. The violent spouse or partner in a fit of rage seeking the victim at their workplace does not always confine the violence to just the victim. The company or organization has a morale and legal responsibility to be aware of such abusive activity and foresee that it could enter the workplace and become everyone’s problem. The courts will certainly look at it that way.
Turning a blind eye, if the abuse is unreported, is not a defense. If the victim’s co-workers are aware of the abuse, then the organization needs to be aware of it. Therefore, your policy needs to make all of your employees aware of their responsibility to report such a situation for discrete investigation. Besides doing the right thing to help the victim employee, your knowledge of the abuse and subsequent actions taken to protect that individual, will become part of your defense. Options might include counseling or other Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intervention, relocation within the office to a new work space, changing of schedule to avoid nighttime parking, or even relocation to another facility if that would help. Make some accommodation that will either help with the direct problem or reduce the likelihood that the problem will manifest itself at work in a violent manner. OSHA’s general duty clause maintains the expectation that the workplace be made safe from foreseeable dangers and this is one of them.