When Domestic Violence Comes to Work
by Holly Jasinski and Dr. Sabala Mandava

Domestic violence is something that is not only detrimental to victims and survivors, but also impacts our workplaces and our economy. As employers, employees, and community members, we have a duty to understand when and how domestic violence shows up at work and how to responsibly handle it.

Domestic violence is widespread. More than 517,500 women and at least 340,000 men currently in the Michigan workforce are estimated to be experiencing or to have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. An estimated 8 million days of paid work are lost each year in the U.S. because of domestic violence. Additionally, domestic violence costs $8.3 billion in expenses annually from a combination of higher medical costs and lost productivity.

Domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical to cause long-term damage. Threats, manipulation, berating, isolating, and gaslighting can cause severe psychological damage to victims, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An abuser will use a variety of tactics to maintain power and control over their partner. Financial and economic abuse is used in 98% of domestic violence relationships. Abusers control their partner’s ability to access, acquire, use, and maintain economic resources. The goal is to limit the person’s capacity to support themselves, so they are dependent on the abuser and feel trapped in the relationship.

Financial abuse often shows up in the workplace, with 60% of domestic violence survivors reportedly losing their jobs and 96% reporting that their work performance suffered.

Abusers may force their partner to quit a job or give up a career. They may stalk or harass a partner at the workplace, force them to be late to or miss or leave work, hide car keys, or otherwise sabotage their ability to get to work. Abusers often also keep partners up late to fight, turn off wake-up alarms, accuse partners of having affairs with supervisors or co-workers, and prevent them from attending job training or advancement opportunities. Some abusers go so far as to create fake social media profiles to make it appear as though the victim is disparaging their own employer or its employees to get them fired.

The abuse can extend beyond the partner and directly impact the workspace. Approximately one-quarter of all workplace violence is linked to personal relationships. This includes situations where a person gains access to the workplace and commits a crime against an employee or customer who is their current or former intimate partner. When this happens, others present in the workplace may also be harmed.

The #MeToo movement created greater awareness about sexual assault and harassment by bosses and colleagues in the workplace. To continue creating safe working spaces, employers should also be able to identify and respond when domestic violence comes to work.

There are currently no federal or state legal requirements for employers or human resources professionals to receive training about domestic violence. There are also no requirements for employers to have policies or procedures for responding to domestic violence. Employers are often unaware of laws related to domestic violence and are unclear about how to respond when they are concerned about an employee. Employee Assistance Programs offer some support, but typically do not offer training or support specific to domestic violence.

But help is available for employers. Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence developed the Resilient Spaces program to provide training for business leaders, supervisors, and human resource professionals on how to recognize and safely respond to domestic violence in the workplace. Employers learn how to recognize red flags, appropriately start conversations, and provide resources. The training is customizable and can take place in person or virtually.

To learn more about domestic violence in the workplace and the Resilient Spaces program, visit www.ResilienceMI.org/Resilient-Spaces

If you or someone you know is dealing with an abusive relationship, please contact Resilience. Help Line services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

24-Hour Help Line: 1-800-848-5991
Spanish: 1-866-728-2131
E-mail: GinnyP411@gmail.com

Dr. Sabala Mandava is vice chair of Radiology at Henry Ford Health and chair of the Michigan Women’s Commission. Holly Jasinski is the Resilient Spaces program facilitator and public policy liaison for Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence.