Domestic Violence Becomes a Workplace Issue

State Legislatures, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence Becomes a Workplace Issue


Domestic violence costs employers billions of dollars a year in health care, lost wages, absenteeism and nonproductivity. Management and security personnel consider the trauma associated with it a lurking, high-risk security problem.

Many employees have few choices about whether or not they bring domestic problems to work. They are forced to get restraining orders against their abusers that may have to be enforced on the job site, or they are stalked at work by a current or former partner. And victims often receive harassing phone calls at work.

Under a policy sanctioned by employees' unions, Maryland has taken steps to stem domestic violence in its workplaces. The state has adopted a new, no-tolerance policy, and 60,000 Maryland state employees will attend a course about abusive relationships.

Officials also will discipline or prosecute anyone who commits an act of domestic violence in a state government workplace. Employees may be fired if they use a state communications device or work time to harass their victims. Maryland's attorney general said the state, the first to establish a policy on domestic violence in government workplaces, hopes to set an example for private employers.

Illinois recently set up a task force to develop a model policy. Policymakers hope to provide businesses with information on the ways to increase workplace awareness, assist affected employees, and provide a safe and helpful working environment for victims.

New York has established the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which will provide technical assistance to state and local governments, other agencies and private not-for-profit corporations.

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