- A woman needs time off from work because she is relocating to a domestic violence shelter to escape her husband’s violence.
- An unknown person shows up at the office and demands to see his girlfriend, who is an employee there; he threatens that he won’t leave until she agrees to see him.
- An employee repeatedly uses office phone lines and email to harass and threaten his ex-girlfriend.
If you’re an employer, chances are that you have encountered one of the three scenarios listed above. If you haven’t, it’s just a matter of time before you do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report stating that 1 in 4 women suffers domestic violence (DV) in the United States. The statistics are equally alarming when it comes to sexual assault and stalking: 1 in 5 women are raped each year; 5.2 million women are stalked. Domestic violence is so pervasive that several states have enacted laws that entitle victims to certain employment rights. Fourteen states require employers to reasonably accommodate survivors of domestic violence; 33 states guarantee access to unemployment insurance to domestic violence victims; 4 states require workplace accommodations apart from time off; and 7 states prohibit employers from discriminating against domestic violence victims. You can find our state law guides to workplace rights here.
Employers may also have obligations towards employees who are victims of domestic violence under federal and state family and medical leave laws; occupational safety and health laws; and/or federal mandates relating to non-discrimination and sexual harassment.
A good domestic violence workplace policy helps employers handle situations where an employee is a victim—or a perpetrator—of domestic violence. It should have the following 10 elements:
- a focus on preserving the safety of all employees;
- an assurance of prompt investigation of all complaints;
- a promise to reasonably accommodate a victim who needs scheduling, work duty or other adjustments in order to address the violence and be safe;
- clearly established procedures for reporting instances of domestic violence or a related crime in the workplace;
- a guarantee of confidentiality for all employees;
- a commitment not to discriminate against victims of domestic violence or any of the related crimes, including sexual assault, stalking or dating violence;
- provisions that ensure reasonable assistance for victimized employees who may be suffering performance problems as the result of the violence in their lives;
- trainings that educate employees and management about the policy;
- access to unemployment benefits in cases where the violence is too severe to allow the victim to work; and
- disciplinary sanctions for employees who perpetrate domestic violence or a related crime, particularly if those employees use office resources to stalk or harass their victims.
Legal Momentum just launched its “This Workplace Is a DV-Free Zone” campaign to make all workplaces in the United States free from domestic violence. To launch the campaign, Legal Momentum created a model workplace policy that is streamlined, easily understandable, and easily implemented. The policy protects victims, their co-workers, and employers. To create it, Legal Momentum culled through dozens of DV workplace policies, including those used by federal agencies, state governments, and private employers, to identify model provisions that can be implemented in workplaces of all sizes. Our goal is for all workplaces in the U.S., no matter how large or small, to be DV-free zones.
We have also created a workplace "Bill of Rights" poster. This poster should be displayed in all “DV-Free Zone” workplaces to alert employees that domestic violence will not be tolerated and that employers will assist employees who are domestic violence victims.
We will be hosting a webinar on April 17, 2015 at 1 PM EDT to present the policy and answer questions for any employer interested in implementing the policy.
Registration for the webinar is now closed. View a recorded version here.
If you are interested in more information about our policy or in sponsoring our campaign, please click here to fill out our interest form.