October 31, 2022


Domestic Violence Awareness month has served as a reminder to employers that the impact of domestic violence extends to the workplace. Millions of people each year face domestic violence that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. However, the effects of domestic violence bleed into the workplace as well, where some $8 million is lost annually due to domestic violence. Fortunately, Employers can take steps to minimize the impact of domestic violence through well-crafted workplace domestic violence policies, educational domestic violence programs, and safe spaces for employees to talk to employers about domestic violence. This article will explain domestic violence’s effect on employers and what employers can do to limit that effect.

Domestic Violence on the Rise

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of domestic violence increased sharply as more people spent time at home. In fact, the domestic violence hotline received more than 75,000 calls for help, which is a 25-year high. Domestic violence causes many to experience not just physical injuries but also mental health crises. Many domestic violence survivors experience PTSD, anxiety, and depression. 

Domestic violence also makes it hard for survivors of domestic violence to remain focused on work, with over 64% of survivors reporting that their work was affected by domestic violence. The lack of focus and trauma from domestic violence can lead to decreased productivity, absences, and higher rates of turnover. The statistics illustrate just how devastating domestic violence can be in the workplace. More than 60% of domestic violence survivors have left their job after facing domestic violence. Over $8 billion is lost yearly from domestic violence in the United States. Finally, survivors of domestic violence lose over 8 million work days each year. 

Beyond the economic impact, domestic violence occurs in the workplace at alarming rates. Over 74% of domestic violence survivors say they experienced domestic violence in the workplace. Signs of domestic violence in the workplace can include: 

  • Visible physical injuries
  • Stress-related illnesses
  • Marital or family problems
  • Alcohol or other addictions
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, or attempts
  • Absenteeism, lateness, leaving work early, arriving early
  • Strict adherence to starting and ending times
  • Inability to travel away from the office for work-related events
  • Decreased job performance
  • Unusual/excessive number of phone calls
  • Disruptive personal visits
  • Abrupt changes in personality, including isolation from other coworkers and lack of participation in office functions/events
  • Fatigue

While this is not an exhaustive list, it can help employers recognize potential domestic violence situations. However, employers should be sure that the signs mentioned above are actually related to domestic violence before exploring next steps. . 

Employers Responsibility

Employers should ensure that they create spaces for employees to both feel safe from domestic violence and feel that they can speak with their employer about domestic violence. Employers that create such a space for their employees are more likely to retain the employee because they feel safe at their place of work. 

To start, employers should maintain a robust set of domestic violence policies that keep employees apprised of what their employer can do to help and what the employee can ask from their employer. Employers should write policies that are clearly written to keep employees apprised of their employer’s stance on domestic violence. Going further than writing clear policies, employers should take time to regularly revisit domestic violence policies to ensure that employees understand them. 

Additionally, employers should include a statement on non-discrimination, non-retaliation, accommodations for survivors, and confidentiality protections. Without these crucial elements, employees may be intimidated to come forward to speak to their employer, which might result in the employee losing productivity, missing time, or leaving the job altogether. An example of a robust domestic violence policy can be found here. 

Next, employers should create a space for employees to feel safe from domestic violence and comfortable speaking to their employer about domestic violence. Creating such a space starts with supervisors and other members of leadership. Employers should train supervisors to develop an understanding of what domestic violence does to an employee. Understanding the employee’s perspective and lived experience will help a supervisor better manage the employee’s needs. 

Creating a space where employees feel free to engage in conversation with their supervisor about domestic violence is key to limiting domestic violence’s effect on the workplace. It is quite challenging to speak to a survivor of domestic violence, especially in the employment context. For that reason, supervisors must ensure that they take the employee’s experience seriously and engage with the employee to figure out how to handle the situation. But, supervisors must call 911 if there is an immediate threat of violence.

If imminent danger is not an issue, supervisors should:

  • Ask the employee what can be done to make them feel safe at work.
  • Ask the employee how they can help, rather than tell the employee what they think they should do. 
  • Offer to assist with safety planning. Domestic violence situations can escalate quickly and the most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship is when they leave.
  • Follow the employer’s domestic violence policies to create an individual workplace safety plan for the employee.
  • Remind the employee about mental health support.
  • Direct employees to the domestic violence national hotline or local shelters for more resources and support.
  • Make sure employees have updated emergency contact information in case they are a no call or no show. 
  • Do not suggest marriage or family counseling. That could put the employee in danger.

This list is not exhaustive, but excellent to include in supervisor training materials for education, awareness, and to ensure adherence. 

Additionally, employers should regularly remind employees that their co-workers may experience domestic violence to remind them of their role in their co-worker’s life. Employers can make a statement in support of employee health and wellness by taking the iCare pledge.

How Traliant Can Help

Employer’s responsibilities are increasingly seen to include protecting employees from workplace violence, it is in the best interest of employers to limit incidents of workplace violence by providing effective training. Traliant’s Workplace Violence Prevention Training covers the issues that are faced when it comes to domestic violence how it affects the workplace, among other topics that include recognizing and reporting workplace violence. We also offer Workplace Violence Policy Review and Development Services which involves developing and implementing a legally compliant workplace violence prevention program for your organization that meets all OSHA guidelines and federal and state laws. 

To learn more about the training or policy services, please reach out to us at info@clearlawinstitute.com or 703-372-0550



Elissa Rossi