Preventing Violence in the Workplace
According to national statistics, homicide is the second leading cause of death for women on the job. Nearly 33% of women killed in U.S. workplaces between 2003-2008 were killed by a current or former intimate partner. Spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends and ex-boyfriends/ex-girlfriends were responsible for the on-the-job deaths of 321 women and 38 men from 1997-2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. These daunting statistics make apparent the need for workplaces to respond in order to keep their employees safe.
In conjunction with the Kentucky Commission on Women and the Kentucky State Police, the Mary Byron Project has launched the WorkSafe initiative in order to help business leaders become proactive about protecting employees who are victims of domestic violence and those who work in close proximity to them. The coalition is working on programs and training sessions to inform a broad range of Kentucky employers about why it is in their best interest to have policies addressing domestic abuse reporting and implement safe practices for those who are more at risk.
At the point where almost one-third of American women report being physically or sexually harassed by a partner at some point in their lives, it follows that domestic violence has very real implications for American workplaces. At the very least, domestic violence permeates the workplace because victims simply cannot escape its effects. Abuse causes its victims to arrive late to work or miss days of work due to injuries, and when they are present, victims frequently have difficulty concentrating or performing their duties to the best of their abilities. As of 2003, the annual cost of lost productivity as a result of intimate partner violence was estimated at about $728 million; this violence has a sizable impact on companies’ bottom lines. On top of direct costs to productivity, companies often must pay direct medical expenses due to IPV, which generates $4.1 billion in direct medical and mental health care service costs each year. This all, of course, is just factoring in the costs incurred on victims – abusers also lose time and productivity, and frequently use company resources like phone lines to continue their harassment.
Because job schedules and location change little from week to week, the workplace is unfortunately an easy target for a perpetrator, putting fellow employees and customers in danger as well. The need for educating Kentucky businesses about becoming proactive with domestic violence issues in the workplace was punctuated when Alisha Waters was shot five times by her estranged husband while leaving the doctor’s office where she worked as a receptionist.
Further, domestic violence is more costly and common than most employers realize. One study found 54% of victimized employees were absent three or more days a month due to issues such as shame regarding their situation or injuries, legal issues, depression and partner sabotage.
On August 7, 2013, the Mary Byron Project and the Center for Women and Families conducted a one-day training workshop aimed at responding to domestic violence in the workplace. In attendance were First Lady Jane Beshear, Kentucky Commission on Women Chair Madeline Abramson, commission members and Kentucky State Police. Commission members will now pair themselves with state police public information officers and share their domestic violence training with community and business leaders across the Commonwealth.
Many women who become domestic violence victims have few outside contacts making co-workers the first choice for advice and comfort. Equipping workplaces with the tools and language to provide support and resources to victims can significantly diminish fatalities in the workplace and domestic violence prevalence in general.