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Domestic Violence in the Workplace

All employers should be concerned about the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. According to a survey of 1,200 employees, conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence:

  • 65% reported being harassed while at work, either in person or on the phone.
  • 63% believe victims were unable to finish assignments because of an abusive situation.
  • 31% felt somewhat obligated to assist a victim of domestic violence by doing the individuals work or providing excuses for their absence.
  • 38% said they were extremely to somewhat concerned for their own safety when they learned that a co-worker had been a victim of domestic violence.

Some of the warning signs employers should look for include: bruises or injuries accompanied by elaborate excuses of accidents or clumsiness, frequent tardiness and absence from work, decreased productivity and attentiveness, low self-esteem, depression, crying, self blame, harassing phone calls at work, isolation, personality changes, fear of conflict, and insufficient access to monetary resources.


  1. Adopt a policy that will not tolerate violent or disruptive behavior in the workplace. Once the company’s position is established, publicize the policy and report procedures to all employees.
  2. Speak out on the issue. By speaking out on the issue and providing visible leadership, corporate management can demonstrate that victims enjoy a supportive environment at their company.
  3. Sponsor a Domestic Violence Awareness Day. Enroll all employees in an awareness seminar during which corporate leaders speak out against abuse.
  4. Include articles about domestic violence in company publications. Internal publications intended for employees are a perfect vehicle for promoting awareness of the problem.
  5. Have materials that publicly condemn domestic violence, including posters, buttons, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, T-shirts and inserts into paychecks providing numbers for victims to call for help.
  6. Improve security measures to address stalking of employees, including training security personnel on the needs of domestic violence victims.
  7. Enhance benefit packages. Include leave policies that enable victims to go to court, as well as programs allowing employees to volunteer at local shelters during extended lunch hours, etc.
  8. Hold employee training programs. Teach managers how to identify victims at work and direct them to services in the community. Require managers to attend domestic violence awareness training.
  9. Employee assistance programs should provide counseling and referrals to shelters and other domestic violence organizations.
  10. Adopt a local domestic violence shelter through monetary or in-kind contributions.

If the employer becomes aware of a specific concern related to domestic violence, additional precautions can be taken:

  • Take steps to keep the abuser out of the workplace.
  • Alert building security and distribute a photograph of the abuser.
  • Allow the employee to change his or her work schedule.
  • Offer to change the employees phone extension.
  • Support efforts to obtain police protection.
  • Be flexible in allowing time off for the employee to seek medical treatment or appear in court.
  • Give the victim a parking space close to the building.


Corporate Leadership

  • Develop, distribute and publicize domestic violence statement and workplace policies.
  • Have CEO, Chair or Management team take leadership in supporting domestic violence statement and workplace policies.
  • Institute a domestic violence task force made up of a culturally diverse group of men and women. Designate staff time to work on the task force.

Corporate Policies

  • Develop personal leave and benefit policies which are responsive to the needs of employees who are victims of domestic violence, including flexible scheduling, use of leave, relocation of work site if appropriate, use of phone, and safety planning.
  • Develop policies which address employees perpetrating domestic violence at work, including those who use workplace phones, faxes or email to harass their intimate partners.
  • Develop policies about release of employee and client/customer personal information to protect possible victims of domestic violence.
  • Review policies regularly and make changes as needed.

Human Resources Issues/Issues for Supervisors and Managers

  • Include domestic violence statement, policies and safety plans in employee manuals.
  • Provide all employees access to an Employee Assistance Program or other counseling service that has staff trained in domestic violence issues and/or referrals specific to domestic violence.
  • Make resources such as additional safety plans and referrals available through supervisors, managers, the human resources department, and domestic violence task force members.
  • Designate a staff person with training on domestic violence that anyone can talk to.
  • Train all supervisors and managers on the domestic violence policies and how to use them.
  • Train all supervisors and managers on how to talk to or respond to an employee who may be experiencing domestic violence.
  • Train all supervisors and managers on how to talk to or respond to an employee who is perpetrating domestic violence at work, including those who use workplace phones, faxes or email to harass their intimate partners.
  • Train supervisors and managers on how to respect the choices and confidentiality of victims of domestic violence.

Education & Awareness

  • Train all employees on the workplace policies about domestic violence.
  • Ensure that all employees receive Domestic Violence and the Workplace training.
  • Maintain an on-going awareness of domestic violence through activities such as brown-bag lunches, regular newsletter articles, paycheck inserts, and posters about domestic violence.
  • Publicize local resources and events by distributing cards, brochures and flyers in break rooms, restrooms, and other locations.

Security in the Workplace

  • Include specific safety measures in the workplace domestic violence policies.
  • Include domestic violence in the overall workplace violence policy.
  • Discuss domestic violence in regular safety or emergency response meetings.
  • Ensure security guards are trained on the special safety needs of victims of domestic violence or others who are stalked.
  • Provide security escorts as needed.
  • Help enforce restraining orders and stalking orders.
  • Review policies about access to information about all employees’ locations and schedules.
  • Review policies about access to all worksites.

Support for Local Domestic Violence Programs

  • Provide in-kind donations or financial support to local domestic violence programs.
  • Match employee contributions to domestic violence programs.
  • Invite local shelter staff to speak at trainings and brown-bag lunches.

Developed by Multnomah County Domestic Violence Coordinator, 421 SW 6th Avenue Suite, 700, Portland, OR 97204, with information from the Love Shouldn’t Hurt Committee, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Polaroid Corporation, and US Bancor.