The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

Intimate partner violence—commonly known as domestic violence—is the physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and/or economic abuse by a former or current intimate partner or family member. Intimate partner violence/domestic violence occurs between heterosexual or same-sex couples across race, ethnicity, culture, religion, age and socioeconomic status.

Below are guidelines to determine if an employee may be in an abusive relationship:

Recognize domestic abuse. Has there been a change in behavior or productivity? An increase in absenteeism or noticeable injuries? You may want to privately check with the employee about your or a co-worker’s observations. Respond with concern and let them know you’re there for their safety
and support.

Listen, listen, listen. It can take a lot for a victim of domestic violence to come forward about their situation. Let them know you care and will help them find the right resources. Also, try not to judge.

Provide comfort and support. Let the employee know that it’s not their fault they’re being hurt and that what’s occurring is wrong.

Keep it confidential. The last thing a victim wants is workplace gossip about their domestic violence situation (not to mention it’s unprofessional). However, due to employee and workplace safety, some key players may need to be informed about the situation.

Safety first. Inform the employee that your priority is for their safety and that of their children (if applicable). Remind them that although this information is confidential between the two of you, certain parties may need to be informed for their safety and the safety of the workplace. Relevant parties could include human resources, security, other managers and/or leadership.

Consult your organization’s policy about domestic violence. Organizations should have a written policy about domestic violence that clearly illustrates how to handle it, including a safety evacuation plan. If they don’t, strongly urge them to start one. It’s not just about safety, it’s about liability.

Check with your health care provider. Your health care provider should be able to go over services covered by your plan. They can also be a resource in gathering informational materials.

Understand the law. Numerous states have enacted legislation that provides protections for employees who are victims of domestic abuse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers some guidance for employers dealing with domestic violence. Please also know that some victims of domestic violence may be eligible for time off through state laws or through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Consulting with human resources and/or your organization’s legal department (if available) can help.

Foster a supportive environment. Offer companywide trainings, posters, flyers, brochures and newsletters on domestic violence. Remind employees to access additional information and resources on domestic violence through something like an employee assistance program (EAP) website. Be mindful to never single someone out. For discretion, it’s suggested to display materials in bathrooms or in
bathroom stalls.

Create a stable environment. Provide work expectations that are consistent and clear to achieve optimal work performance.

Allow for temporary adjustments. Whether it’s adjusting the employee’s work schedule, job duties or expectations, and/or location (if able), accommodations can encourage more focus on essential job duties. Consider additional time off so that the employee can seek safety and protection, attend any possible court appearances, arrange for new housing and take care of other appropriate matters.

Encourage the employee to call an EAP. If available, an EAP benefit offers counseling and connects callers to resources and educational materials on domestic violence. Should the employee decide not to call the EAP, do not force them. Despite your best intentions, this may not be best for the employee and could victimize them a second time. Be prepared to connect them to other community resources or reach out to the EAP yourself for resources and share them with the employee.

Take advantage of management consultation through the EAP. It’s easy to feel stressed, overwhelmed or uncertain when addressing distressing issues like domestic violence. Remember that it’s okay to not know everything. At FEI, our EAP is available to offer free, confidential guidance and support for managers who wish to call regarding the employee’s situation and how best to deal with it.

Consider the EAP a valuable partner in addressing workplace challenges like domestic violence. You don’t have to do it alone—we can help.

If you or an employee is an FEI client and are experiencing or have experienced any form of domestic violence, support is available through the EAP. The EAP is free, confidential and available 24/7/365.

If you or an employee is in immediate danger, please call 911 and security (if available) immediately.