Best Practices: Dealing with Employees Who Batter
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Many companies dread the thought of dealing with an employee who is a victim of domestic violence. But the fact is, dealing with a batterer can be even more difficult. A critical first step is checking the applicable laws in your state. Beyond that, here are some other ways to ensure you are dealing with batterers in a way that protects your company—and your employees.
Put Policies in Writing
According to Ann Kaminstein of the DV Initiative, having a written workplace violence policy is important—but employers shouldn't be hasty. “No policy is better than a bad policy,” she advises. “But a good policy—one that spells out the consequences for employees convicted of violent acts, based on logical and supportable business reasons—is priceless,” she explains. “Still, you need to support the policy with training. Otherwise you may create additional liabilities.”
Assess the Risks
Before creating a policy, however, experts recommend that you take time to consider the implications. According to Barry Nixon, President of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, “Companies need to think through multiple what-if scenarios before committing a policy to paper. A policy is an implied contract that needs to be enforced for ALL employees—it cannot be selectively applied to a category of employees like drug testing. Thus you need to be prepared to follow through—even if it's your best employee.” He continues, ”With professional guidance, you can make sure you that you're not creating additional liability for your company.”
In large companies, both the abuser and victim may be employees. If so, company grounds, property, or time may have been used for threats or acts of violence and the company's workplace violence policy comes into effect. But this isn't always the case. According to Missy Wills, Senior Employee Relations Analyst at State Farm Insurance Companies, her company had “a situation where both parties worked in the same building. The wife contacted HR and was referred to EAP counseling and legal resources.” After careful assessment of the situation, the company determined that no performance issues or workplace safety risks were involved, so they took no immediate disciplinary action.
Discipline or Terminate Carefully
On the other hand, if an employee does use your company's telephones, fax machines, or email to threaten or harass and you have a policy that does not allow this, you can discipline with written warnings, paid or unpaid leave, required counseling—whatever your policy specifies. But be sensitive and cautious. According to Hank Linden, a workplace violence consultant, “In terms of disciplining or terminating employees accused or convicted of domestic violence, the focus should always be on safety. Use a team with representatives from security, HR, legal and the EAP to determine the safest, most appropriate and legally responsible way to handle the situation.” He continues, “By treating the batterer with dignity and respect, you minimize the risk of violent outbursts or retaliation.”
Bob Foster, CEO of the Domestic Abuse Counseling Center, Inc. recommends that companies offer counseling through an EAP or some other source. “This gives employers an opportunity to tell batterers their behavior is wrong and provide them with the resources to change it,” he explains. “Take the time to locate providers in your area with specialized training in treating batterers.”
The worst thing an employer can do when confronted with an employee accused of domestic violence is to do nothing. When you need assistance in developing policy or dealing with these issues, please remember that CAEPV is here to provide guidance and help.