Domestic violence is a major public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in five women and one in seven men report having been the victim of severe physical violence from an intimate partner. Additionally, the Department of Labor estimates that domestic violence results in approximately eight million lost days of work and $1.8 million in lost productivity per year.
How Does Domestic Violence Affect Work?
The effects of domestic violence do not simply disappear when employees enter the workplace. In addition to physical injuries, employees who are victims of domestic violence also carry mental and emotional scars. This can make it difficult to be on time, focus on work tasks, and maintain a high level of productivity.
Not only does domestic violence affect work performance, but it can also take place at work. Abusers may incessantly call or stalk their partner or spouse’s workplace, attempting to keep tabs on them. Some warning signs for employers to look out for include noticing that a worker:
Appears anxious, fearful, or depressed
Consistently is picked up/dropped off by his or her significant other
Does not socialize after work
Has displayed changes in work performance
Has visible physical injuries
Is unable to change shifts
Is uncharacteristically late or absent
Receives apology gifts after being distressed
Receives frequent phone calls
Suffers frequent “accidents”
Wears unseasonable clothing or accessories
What Employers Can Do About Domestic Violence
Employers may not be able to prevent domestic violence but there are several things they can do to address it in the workplace. In addition to having a zero-tolerance policy for violence, employers can also:
Maintain a nonjudgmental and supportive work environment
Make reasonable efforts to maximize employee safety (for example, lighting, escorts, and cooperation with law enforcement)
Notify employees of reporting requirements and assistance options
Provide each employee with a copy of the workplace violence policy
Require employees to attend special training
Safe Leave for Domestic Violence Victims
If domestic violence is affecting your work, you may be entitled to safe leave. Maryland employers are required to provide safe leave for domestic violence victims, according to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Under the Act, employers with 15 or more employees must provide paid safe leave and those with 14 or fewer must provide unpaid safe leave for employees who must miss work due to domestic violence. Employees must give notice to their employers as soon as the need to miss work becomes foreseeable and use safe leave in reasonable increments established by their employers.