Should HR Step Into Domestic Violence Issues?

Posted March 9, 2018 by Mary McGinley

For some women, facing domestic abuse at home is a scenario that unfolds all-too-often. Going to work and trying to appear as normal as possible can be a challenge. According to a recent article appearing on the SHRM website, HR should be ready to step in and investigate if they suspect an employee is a perpetrator of domestic violence.

Recent headlines covering the ouster of White House staff members, Rob Porter and David Sorensen have brought the issue to the forefront of public awareness. Statistics show that some 44% of American workers know someone in an abusive relationship at home. Of workers participating in a study from the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, 21% indicated that they were the victims of domestic violence themselves.

For those who are aware of a co-worker, or suspect that a colleague is living with domestic violence, some will tell themselves that it is simply “none of their business” and decide not to interfere. While others, may offer moral support or a safe space for domestic abuse victims are often reassured by the possibly abused colleague that “things are fine….Really,”

That may not be the case. Author Allen Smith suggests that employers who have a member of staff who is a victim of domestic violence should offer assistance in filing a restraining order or in counseling and advocacy services if possible. Victims of domestic abuse have rights; however, sometimes they need to be informed what their rights and resources are.

Conversely, those who are suspected of domestic violence also have rights. When investigating any such allegations, always err on the side of safety of others. Remind the worker under investigation that accusations are only allegations until proved or disproved. Discharge or termination of an abuser may be appropriate, for example, if both people in the relationship work in the same office, or an abusive situation spills into the workplace, HR and management should not hesitate to bring law enforcement into the picture if necessary.