Domestic Violence takes toll at FedEx Today.
Under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to take “feasible steps to minimize risks” in workplaces where “the risk of violence and significant personal injury are significant enough to be ‘recognized hazards,’ ” according to a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration letter of interpretation.
On my way to a meeting earlier today, I caught this news story on the radio. It is every employer’s worst nightmare and for the people who were present, it must have been horrifying! None of us can ever predict or begin to know when tragedy will strike but employers can take prudent steps in identifying risk in the workplace, be it domestic influences or internal conflicts. Being prepared is key in mitigating risk and preparing the workforce to react should such a circumstance every present itself.
Allied Barton is provides security officer solutions where people live and work. I would encourage you to check out their website and webinars for resources. Often a supervisor or close co-worker will observe peers in need of support. Companies that offer Employee Assistance Programs often are trained on the resources that can be made available enabling them to approach the employee and offer support.
It should be human nature to offer support to any one experiencing domestic violence but often the victims may not feel safe to open up about it. Experienced security professionals explain that telling the employee that help is available, that his or her co-workers will believe what he or she has to say, and that no one deserves to be hurt can help. It is important to be sure not to ask what the employee did that might have instigated the injuries or why the employee doesn’t just leave the abuser—those questions can erode trust.
Employers with 15 or more employees in Illinois have some legal obligations under VESSA but what if an employee never reaches out for help?
Allied Barton leadership has cited in their resources the following ways that an employer can help:
- Offering the services of the employee assistance program. Don’t try to counsel the person on your own.
- Asking the victim what changes can be made to the work environment that would make him or her feel safer.
- Save any threatening messages received at the workplace for future legal action.
- Put barricades—such as plants and partitions—around the employee’s work area so that the perpetrator can’t walk directly to him or her.
- Give the employee priority parking and an escort to and from the parking area.
- Change the employee’s office phone number and remove the employee’s name from automated contact lists.
- Install panic buttons for the employee and receptionist.
- Ask local police to patrol the parking area.
- Educate employees company wide on domestic violence, pulling resources from local domestic violence organizations, the police department and the district attorney’s office.
I can recall handling a domestic violence situation in my experience and while that particular scenario had a proactive victim with up front communication to HR there can be situations where an employee declines help. If the employer suspects that abuse is occurring and worries that the abuser may show up at the work place then the employer must work to protect all employees while on work premises. The first step is to care and be observant of those around you, often if may not be the Supervisor or even Manager that notices first. That is why it is important to develop good relationships built on trust because I believe it is safe to say universally that none of us want to see anyone exposed to this kind of trauma ever, let alone at work.