Office of the Prosecuting Attorney
Domestic Violence in the Workplace
When an employee is a victim of domestic violence, the workplace could be impacted by increased sick leave, reduced productivity, increased medical expenses, employee turnover and increased safety risks.
Employers need to be aware of the realities and issues of domestic violence and develop methods to address these issues when they arise.
Workplace warning signs:
Warning signs may be indicative of various problems, but some indicators that an employee may be a victim of domestic violence include:
- Lack of concentration
- Change in performance or attitude
- Increased or unexplained absences
- Receipt of harassing telephone calls
- Disruptive personal visits to the workplace
- Depression and anxiety
What your company can do:
Establish policies and procedures to address domestic violence. Not only is domestic violence a problem for an individual employee, it can also result in threats to workplace security.
When developing a company policy, it is important to understand that federal, state and local laws governing the workplace often restrict employers from making certain inquiries about the health and home life of their employees. This does not mean the employers should ignore signs of possible domestic abuse. In some cases, it is appropriate for the manager to make work-related inquiries. A company should always take prompt steps to ensure the safety of its employees.
Under the Michigan Crime Victim's Rights Act MCL 780.822, employers must cooperate when employees are subpoenaed for court hearings. Any employer who threatens to discharge or discipline, discharges, or disciplines any employee who honors a court-ordered subpoena or request by the prosecutor to attend court to give testimony, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 90 days in jail or a fine of not more than $500, or both, and may be punished for contempt of court. This law also applies to victim representatives who attend or desire to attend court during the testimony of the victim. A victim representative is defined as the guardian/custodian of a victim under 18 years of age who was assaulted or is now deceased. Employers do have the right to request a written statement from the prosecutor's office indicating the employee's attendance in court and the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office is always willing to provide such a letter.
What managers and supervisors can do:
- Participate in training on domestic violence issues and be aware of your company's policies regarding involvement.
- Be aware of visible warning signs.
- If you observe warning signs, let the person know you notice a problem and are concerned.
- Once a dialogue has been established, ask what assistance (if any) would be most useful to the employee. The person may not want the employer to take any action, or may have some specific requests, such as help to arrange time off for court appearances, security escorts to their car, not transferring calls from abuser, etc.
- Don't allow the situation to be a topic of office gossip.
- If an employee confides in you, don't tell the person what to do or make judgments or assumptions regarding the particular situation. Trained professionals are best equipped to counsel employees in non-work-related issues.
- Don't ask the employee why she or he won't leave the relationship. Each situation is different. Reasons for staying or leaving are complex and varied.
- Cooperate with police if an incident occurs at work.
- Get help from Human Resources, Personnel Department, or other designated individuals in your company. In some cases, it may be appropriate to direct the employee to your company's Employee Assistance Program, or to one of the listed community resources.
How to make your employee safer at work:
- Suggest the employee leave a copy of any personal protection order with security, along with a photo of the abuser.
- Tell the appropriate supervisors in the employee's area - they can make it harder for the abuser to find the employee.
- Be sure that lunch and break rooms are not isolated.
- Allow security guards to walk employees to their car if they are concerned.
- Allow employees to save voice mail and e-mail that may later be used as evidence in court.