Develop Policies and Procedures
Develop workplace policies that support employees and co-workers impacted by domestic violence that include avenues of reporting, no retaliation, and discipline for threatening or violent conduct. (Source FPVF1)
Whenever possible, adapt existing policies or implement a new domestic violence policy that provides flexible opportunities to get help for employees who are abused. In some cases, current policies can be applied to domestic violence situations without needing any revisions. (Source FPVF1)
Have an organized response to direct threats of domestic violence that may occur at work.
· There is no difference between a threat of violence occurring at work that comes from a spouse or partner of an employee than there is from the threat of violence that comes from a co-worker or an outside intruder. (Source FVPF3)
Decide whether fixed guidelines or case-by-case responses work best for your company.
· If you choose to develop fixed guidelines, work with union representatives and with general counsel or other legal advisors. Guidelines should be developed after a full analysis of the minimum legal standards required by wrongful discharge statutes and laws addressing employment, disability, and leave rights.
· Assemble an interdisciplinary team representing human resources (including employee assistance programs), the benefit administration, a violence psychologist, the legal department or employment attorney, security, and union (if applicable). Coordination is the key. Work with other resources within your organization, including security/safety, human resources, EAP, and/or law enforcement or domestic violence resources in the community, to have a comprehensive and planned response.
· Take into account safety, security, and public relations strategies, as well as the legal consideration in developing policies and procedures.
· Consider prevention as well as responses to workplace violence (train managers and employees about workplace violence policy, recognizing warning signs, conflict resolution, and bullying in the workplace).
· Provide information to employees/managers about community resources that can help prevent and intervene in violent situations (domestic violence advocates, employee assistance programs, local law enforcement, experts in violence/threat assessment). (Source CBA4)
Consider these Colorado statutes when developing policies and procedures:
· Restraining orders for businesses: A civil restraining order can be issued to protect employees and patrons, if there is an imminent danger of violence. However, the business cannot be held liable for failing to obtain a restraining order. [§13-14-102 (4)(b) C.R.S.]
· Unemployment benefits: Victims who have to quit their jobs because of domestic violence can receive unemployment benefits if the victim provides evidence of the violence and seeks counseling or other services. These benefits are paid out of the state’s reserve and not the employer’s unemployment account. [§8-73-108 (4)(r), C.R.S.]
· Leave for domestic violence victims: Employers with 50 or more employee are required to permit an employee to take up to three working days of leave in any 12 month period, with or without pay, if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The employee can use the time to seek a civil restraining order, secure their home, seek legal assistance, or obtaining medical or mental health care for themselves or their children. [§24-34-402.7, C.R.S.]
· Right to testify in criminal case: An employer can not fire or discriminate against someone who has been subpoenaed to testify in a criminal proceeding, whether the criminal proceeding is domestic violence related or not. [§24-4.1-303 (8), CRS]
· Insurance Benefits: Insurance companies are prohibited from denying or canceling of insurance (including health insurance) merely because the insured or potential insured is or was a victim of domestic violence [§10-3-1104.8, C.R.S.].
(NOTE: The above information is intended to provide general information regarding the law relating to employment and domestic violence. Laws and legal procedures change frequently and are subject of differing interpretations. Do not rely on the information in this fact sheet. Consult an attorney or appropriate agency about these and any other laws in a particular situation.)
Screen New Hires Appropriately
Respect Employees' Rights to Confidentiality
Create a Climate of Open Communication
Create a Climate of Safety
Use Benefits Flexibly
Support Employees' Needs For Payment, Beneficiary, Work Station Changes
Articulate Appropriate Actions to Take with Abusers
Give an Abused Employee Time to Improve His/Her Performance
Screen New Hires Appropriately
· Employers should implement screening procedures that will identify potential new hires who are prone to violent behavior.
· If a position within the company requires a criminal background check and a domestic violence conviction turns up, do not dismiss that information as irrelevant to workplace security because the act of violence occurred within the family rather than in a public location. (Source CBA1)
Respect Employees’ Rights to Confidentiality (Source CBA1)
· Review existing employee benefit forms, programs, and protocols in order to determine what kinds of information should be kept confidential.
· Respect the confidentiality of information the victim shares about violence perpetrated by an intimate partner.
· Help the person by not jeopardizing her/his confidences.
· No employer or employee should provide information to the abuser that would endanger the victim, even if the abuser is still married to the victim. Disclosure of information without the permission of the employee could be a violation of privacy rights, thereby exposing the employer to liability.
· Never disclose information about employees, particularly addresses and phone numbers, without permission, even to family members. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove the victimized employee’s name from staff directories. Other employees, such as receptionists, should be told to refrain from identifying the victim as an employee.
· If an at-risk employee’s work schedule must be posted in an open area, consider listing that employee’s schedule under an agreed upon alias. Alternatively, use numerical codes to identify all employees on the schedule, so that the abuser will find it difficult to identify the targeted employee’s listing. If the practice is to use numbers, select numbers that intimate partners would not be familiar with.
· If an at-risk employee uses off-site or contract employee assistance program services, make it absolutely clear to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider that no information about employees, no matter how innocuous it may seem, should be given out to any party without the employee’s permission.
· If an abuser has benefits, such as health or life insurance coverage, and the at-risk employee has concerns about the abuser using that benefit status to locate or harass her/him, help the person keep that information confidential.
· A victim’s critical need for confidentiality must sometimes be balanced with the need to create a safe workplace for all employees.
· It may come to the point when it is in the employer’s best interest to prohibit an abuser from entry into the business or to inform the abuser that he/she may not contact the employee during work hours. If circumstances reach this point, the employer must inform the victim of the decision to take this kind of action prior to taking it.
· The employer and the employee should agree on a small circle of people who know about the domestic violence problems a particular employee faces. This might include people from the community who are experts on domestic violence and are trained to provide confidential assistance.
Create a Climate of Open Communication
· Encourage victims to be forthright with information about possible danger and discuss with the person how they want to be supported. (Source AJA)
· Develop organizational settings where victims of domestic violence may be assured of their employer’s support. Such a setting fosters employee candor about their personal circumstances and promotes the opportunity of developing safety strategies for individual employees.
· If employees know that their company has a policy of firing or punishing victims of domestic violence, victimized employees will not be likely to disclose potential dangers created by the abuser. Instead, they will try to hide the problem for as long as possible, in order not to jeopardize their employment. That can be more dangerous than working with the victim to keep the abuse off the company premises. The victimized employee cannot be blamed for – nor can she/he control – the abuser’s behavior.
Create a Climate of Safety (Source CBA1)
· Develop good security policies that include information about managing incidences of domestic violence and train employees about them.
· Personnel who offer assistance on safety plans also should collect emergency contact information from the at-risk employee. If communication with other employees about the situation becomes necessary, the trained key staff should handle it.
· Help an at-risk employee consider how she/he can protect her/himself and her/his children. (See Create Safety Plans)
o “What can you do to be safer during a crisis at home?”
o “What safety issues affect your children?”
o “Is there potential need for leave time and is the work schedule safe?”
o “Is your commute to and from work safe?”
o “Are the parking arrangements at work safe?”
o “What alternate escape route can you use if the abuser comes to the workplace?”
o “Do you need to leave your home for any length of time?”
o “Do you need to change your phone number or develop a system for screening calls at work?”
o “What emergency contact information can you provide us in case a crisis occurs at work?”
o “What important papers or personal items, including medication, will you need should you leave home or work quickly? How can you collect them and where can you store them?”
o “What health concerns might be impacted by domestic violence?”
· Consider whether or not it is appropriate to have someone screen calls made to the victim.
Use benefits flexibly
· Encourage employees to use existing flextime and leave options to cover necessary absences. Make it clear to the employee that you support his/her efforts and taking time for these purposes will not reflect negatively on the person’s performance rating.
· Come to clear agreements about how much time off is available to take care of these needs and whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Establish definite schedules to help both the supervisors and the employees know when the completion of certain tasks can be reasonably expected.
· Realize that every case is different and think creatively with a victimized employee about how you can support her/his decisions about handling the domestic violence in her/his life.
· If an employee has insufficient leave time accrued, consider allowing advanced use of as-yet-unearned leave time or an unpaid leave of absence.
· If a victimized employee needs a significant enough change in work time to make it difficult to complete his/her work, consider reassigning his/her duties or temporarily giving the person a position with more flexibility.
· Realizing that flexible leave options for victimized employees is an investment in employee loyalty and productivity, that use of community resources can lead to a safer workplace; and that supporting valued employees saves costs associated with having to re-hire and train new employees.
· Continuing access to health insurance and related medical benefits is crucially important to a victim of domestic violence. Losing health insurance benefits could force a victimized employee to remain with the abuser.
· Choose health insurance plans that do not discriminate against employees with a history of domestic violence. (Source CBA1)
· Polaroid has developed specific policies in this arena by offering victimized employees three options:
o Time off with pay for short periods, up to a maximum three-week period (to handle legal matters, court appearance, housing and child care arrangements).
o Time off without pay for a three-week block of time or a total of 15 days over a several week period.
o A formal leave of absence for longer periods.
· Polaroid requires employees taking leave time to:
o Make clear plans about returning to work.
o Make arrangements for receiving pay while on leave.
o Maintain communications with a human resources administrator throughout the absence. (Source CBA1)
Support Employees’ Needs for Payment, Beneficiary, Work Station Changes
· An employee experiencing domestic violence may need to change the way in which she/he is paid in order to prevent the abuser from taking wages. It may help to arrange for direct deposits to a person’s bank account. Where direct deposit is already being paid to a joint account to which the abuser has access, other arrangements need to be made.
· Identify any financial benefit plans such as 401(k) accounts, life insurance policies, or pension plans that require employees to name beneficiaries. An employee who is a victim of domestic violence may wish to change the named beneficiaries when beginning to take steps to leave an abuser. Be sure to inform the employee of legal notification requirements prior to making the change, in case the victimized employee has concerns about notifying the abuser. (Source CBA1)
· Some at-risk employees may be forced to move, leave their jobs, or seek relocation in order to hide from particularly aggressive abusers. If your company has different branch offices, consider transferring the victimized employee to a location the abuser does not know about. (Source CBA1)
· If the person feels that she/he may be endangered because of working in isolated or public locations, the employer can take steps to minimize the danger:
· Ensure that at-risk employees have quick and easy access to a telephone line that will enable them to call security as well as make an outside call to the law enforcement or a crisis line. (Source AJA)
· Do not locate at-risk employees in an isolated work station that is out of eyesight of fellow employees. (Source AJA)
· If a targeted employee must travel alone as she/he works, provide a cellular telephone or radio access to the main office or local law enforcement agency. Establish routine check-in times for the employee to contact the office. (Source AJA)
Articulate Appropriate Actions to Take with Abusers (Source CBA1)
· Employers should make it clear to all employees that harassing behavior or acts of violence by employees will not be tolerated. Failure to deal with this kind of situation most likely presents a liability issue for the employer.
· Employees who harass others at work should be warned, sanctioned and, if the behavior continues, terminated.
· Policies must be clear that acts of violence in the workplace will not be tolerated and they must be implemented and consistently followed through by holding the abuser, and not the victim, accountable.
· Security, reception, and sales staff are most visible in an office setting and they may see more instances of the abuser’s attempts to enter the workplace.
· If the company is aware that a non-employee abuser may come to the workplace, make sure that the security personnel and staff working in the public areas can identify the abuser. Have a picture of the abuser and give it to security.
· Help to honor protective orders. If a court has issued any order barring the abuser from contacting the victim or contacting her/his workplace, make sure employees know about the order and know what to do if the order is violated.
· All staff should know when and how to alert human resources, management, and employee assistance program personnel about the potential or actual problems caused by domestic violence perpetrators.
· If a non-employee abuser attempts to gain entry to the workplace or demands to speak to a victimized employee, front-line staff should not attempt to negotiate with the abuser, but should alert designated personnel to the problem or contact law enforcement when needed.
Give an abused employee time to improve his/her performance. (Source FVPF3)
· Bring up any performance concern and provide specific details and examples of the problem. Do not generalize.
· Express your concern and tell her/him the signs of abuse that you have seen and that you believe her/his performance problem may be related to it.
· Offer specific referrals for help. Note that you believe the performance may improve if they are able to use this help. “If there is a personal problem affecting your performance, it might help to talk to a counselor at the EAP or an outside counselor to get advice on how to deal with it. Here is the phone number.” (See Community Resources)
· Outline the performance expectations that the employee must meet in order to avoid further disciplinary action. “Once you have had a chance to get the help you need for your situation, we will need you to decrease your absences and tardies and prevent and errors.”
· Ask the employee if he/she has personal needs that may interfere with accomplishing these performance goals. Explore ways to flex the work expectations in order to allow the employee to get help and get safe. “Once you have talked with the counselor, get back with me and let’s discuss what you may need in the near future to help you get through this. We can make allowances for appointments and other things that you may need to work this out.”
· Consider holding off on disciplinary actions to allow the employee an opportunity to get help first and then to improve their performance.
· Follow up with the employee and ask if he/she had difficulties assessing the help resources. Work with her/him on timeframe needed to see a counselor, take legal action, recover from injuries or make safety arrangement.
Other ways to be proactive in dealing with domestic violence:
Consider possible legal liabilities.
Make materials and resources accessible and available.
Develop contacts with local domestic violence service providers.
Develop contacts with local law enforcement personnel.
Make referrals to community resources.
Understand protective orders.