WORKPLACE VIOLENCE (Lesson 32 of 33)
As with any other threat, the first requirement for protecting employees from domestic violence and/or stalking at the workplace is finding out that the threat exists. This can be particularly difficult in domestic abuse cases, where abuse victims often remain silent out of shame, embarrassment, a sense of helplessness, and fear. Just as a supportive workplace climate makes employees feel safe in reporting other threats, an environment of trust and respect will make it easier for someone fearing domestic violence or stalking to tell an employer and seek assistance or protection. Perhaps more than with any other risk, employees facing domestic threats may tend to confide most easily in coworkers, rather than supervisors, managers or a company’s security force. It is also coworkers who are most likely to sense that someone they work with may be at risk from an abusive relationship, even if the person doesn’t say anything explicitly. Employers need to be careful about violating privacy or asking employees to break a coworker’s confidence, but it is entirely reasonable and justifiable to encourage disclosure when others in the workplace may also be in danger. Beyond trying to create and maintain a generally supportive workplace atmosphere, employers can provide specific training to help the work force to be more aware and sensitive to signs of possible domestic abuse. Training can also include teaching ways to persuade a reluctant coworker to tell supervisors and accept help an employer may be able to offer. Although domestic violence and stalking are largely thought of as violence against women and thus as a “woman’s problem,” training and awareness programs should be directed at all employees, men and women alike. For employees involved in security or who will take part in the threat assessment and response, an employer can offer additional training focusing on how best to deal with domestic abuse victims. The same or similar training should be provided to anyone working with victims in a company’s Employment Assistance Program. Both in training efforts and in providing help to at-risk workers, employers should draw on outside resources as well as their own: law enforcement, women’s law and anti violence advocacy groups, and social service agencies, for example.