Headlines about Ray Rice and the NFL remind us all that domestic violence does not stop at the door of an employee’s home. It is a serious crime and one that has lasting impacts on those affected by it. This post provides guidance and information on what employers should know about domestic violence.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, marital status, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/race. It is a pattern of coercive behavior by one person over another. It may include physical or sexual violence, stalking, or verbal, psychological, or economic abuse. NH law protects persons who are victims of domestic violence. There are also stalking and harassment laws.
When dealing with victims of domestic violence, employers should be flexible in allowing time off from work for medical treatment or court appearances. NH requires leave for victims of crimes under the Crime Victim Leave Act, RSA 275:61-65. Under this law, a victim of a crime may leave work to attend court or other legal or investigative proceedings associated with the prosecution of the crime. A victim is broadly defined and includes the immediate family of any victim who is a minor or who is incompetent or the immediate family of a homicide victim. The Act applies to employers with 25 or more employees.
Other laws may also be implicated when it comes to employees who are victims of domestic violence, such as reasonable accommodations due to a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination. (see guidance from EEOC) Leave or intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may also be required. (see guidance from US Department of Labor) Also know that employers have a general duty to provide employees with a safe work environment and should have practices and policies in place consistent with this obligation.
No workplace is immune from the potential for workplace violence. To be effective, companies should have a domestic violence policy, must develop a safety plan, be aware of studies of violence and domestic violence, and implement comprehensive training and educational programs for both management and employees. Companies, on a regular basis, can make efforts to educate employees and make them aware of domestic violence. Companies can put up posters in break or lunch rooms to let employees know where they or someone they know can reach out and seek help. Referral to an EAP program is also an option.
An appropriate policy should include a policy statement regarding the company’s stance on domestic violence and should offer employees resources to increase their awareness of domestic violence to further reduce the impacts on the workplace. The policy should also include a statement that violence of any kind in the workplace will not be tolerated and can lead to immediate disciplinary action up to and including termination. Additionally, requiring an employee to inform the company when he or she obtains a retraining order from a court allows an employer to take steps to keep everyone in the workplace safe.
For organizations that do not currently have a policy addressing workplace violence prevention, more information is available through the Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management, or for smaller businesses, through the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Center.
Sample policies addressing domestic violence are available at the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. The NH Coalition & Crisis Management also has helpful information, which includes a list of crisis centers. Information can also be found at the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women division.