What’s the “Supportive” in Safe, Supportive and Sought-after?
A lot of emphasis is placed on employers to provide a safe working environment. OHSA requires them to do so through its “General Duty” clause which, to paraphrase, states that every employer must provide a workplace that is safe, healthy and free from known hazards. My guess is that many employers do so only because it’s required and that they fear possible OHSA citations for failing to do so.
But is that enough? I don’t have to cite statistics and quote numerous articles on the subject of employee to convince you that organizations that also pay attention to employee self-esteem, morale, and confidence levels reap the benefits of a stronger workforce, enhanced reputation and reduced turnover that organizations that expect their workers to leave their personal issues at home.
That’s not to say that employees are encouraged to bring troubles to work. It’s simply saying that to expect all employees’ personal issues to evaporate the moment an employee clocks into work is completely unrealistic. Managers and executives should have stopped thinking that way decades ago as there’s been too much documented to prove that’s not going to happen.
Since the workplace is literally where employed individuals spend more time than anywhere else it’s also the likeliest and often the best place for employee to get the help and resources they need.
When it comes to domestic violence spillover to the workplace here are a couple examples of total failure on the part of the employer:
In my book Bringing the Darkness into the Light (available at www.hressential.com/Resources) I interviewed a woman named Jennifer, who was stalked by her boyfriend and threatened at work. She said, “I was fired from my executive-level position because I was stalked at work and determined to be “a danger to others”.
Jennifer told me it took two years and a complete change of careers before she found work again, and that was at half of her previous salary.
This past May I was interviewed by reporter John Toughy of the INDYSTAR who wrote:
In Indiana, Domestic Violence Can Pose Dilemma for Employers
After her boyfriend beat her and threatened to kill her in October, Kristianne Rouster was issued a protective order that prohibited him from contacting her in person, on the phone or by text.
Because such orders routinely include the workplace, Rouster told her employer, Pitney Bowes.
Within a month, she was fired.
He continued to illustrate that Rouster is suing Pitney Bowes and “The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in compensatory damages and 100,000 in punitive damages.”
From his article:
“What is the cost to a company’s reputation? What kind of message does it send to other victims at the company or in the workforce?” said Angelo, owner of Human Resource Essential. “Plus you lose a good employee, and it costs money to replace them.”
Angelo said the best companies have workplace violence committees composed of employees who have received special training. They know how to talk to victims and assure them that they’re in a safe place to talk about it. The companies have comprehensive and unambiguous plans. “The workplace is sometimes the safest place these victims will be all day,” she said. “lf you fire someone, you leave them out there to be far more vulnerable.”
On the flip side, when I interviewed Lorel for Bringing the Darkness into the Light (available at www.hressential.com/Resources), I heard about her experience when on a weekend her husband insisted they go to her workplace to retrieve the paycheck she left there and the violence he launched on her while in the building. She found out later that her boss was there to do work and had witnessed part of the attack. Later he contacted her privately.
Lorel said, “My boss assured me privately that no matter what decision I made about this that he would back me up. When I returned to work on Monday there was a newsletter on my desk from the Family Advocacy Center with a help line phone number on it. I decided to call. With the information and assistance from the Center and my employer I was able to come up with a safety plan, file a police report, get an order of protection, file for divorce, get my son and our things and leave.
Here are some tips and accommodations you can consider to assist an employee who is a victim of domestic violence.
First establish an open door policy for staff members to talk and discuss concerns. You might find that employees raise concerns about a co-worker or self disclose their own connection to domestic violence.
This is where specific domestic violence training, such as It Happened at Home – It Cost Us at Work is invaluable. Make sure that managers understand the problems that victims, and even offenders, are dealing with. Remember, it is the manager’s or executive’s job to listen; not to counsel, and to accommodate the employee so that they are safe to do their job.
The best way to ensure that a victim’s interests are protected is to meet with the victim. You should discuss strategies that you believe are needed to protect them and plans you desire to implement to protect the staff.
• Give due consideration and accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence. Bear in mind your state may also have specific mandates regarding leave of absence and other laws.
• Modify their duties, assignments, or work sites, especially if the perpetrator and the victim are employed at the same work site.
• Refer the employee to Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), to shelter services and to domestic violence hotlines; both state and national numbers.
To have your questions answered about how we create workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-after, please contact me at (480) 726-9833, Stephanie@hressential.com