Why All Companies Should Have A Domestic Violence Prevention Policy

Imagine something for a moment. Let’s say you’re a manager or an employer, and one of your employees asks for a few minutes of your time. Then they tell you something truly horrifying--that they are the victim of domestic violence. And then, he or she asks for your help.

(And it is likely “she,” by the way – 85% of victims of domestic violence in this country are women.)

Your employee needs your help. Maybe they're moving, maybe they're seeking refuge. Maybe they don’t feel safe traveling to and from work, or being in a place where the tormentor knows where they are all day. Maybe they need a reprieve to collect themselves, to figure some things out before moving on. But they simply cannot afford to lose the job. Your employee needs help.

So what do you do? What would you do? My hope is that you would do whatever it took to make sure that they were safe, to make sure that they were taken care of, to use whatever resources were at your company’s disposal to help out. My guess is that a lot of the people reading this article will feel like they would do something along those lines. And yet, chances are your company doesn’t have a domestic violence prevention policy in place. This is a mistake, and it is one that is easily rectifiable, extremely important, and absolutely necessary, not just for the protection of your employees but for the good of society as well.

There are many variations in the nature of domestic violence policies, but the industry standard is one month of paid leave, no questions asked, for any person who reports to their company that they are a victim of domestic violence. Alongside this commitment to employees, companies often include an aggressive and thoughtful denouncement of domestic violence -- an unequivocal statement of their company’s values -- as well as a guarantee of privacy, secrecy, and support for any victims.

Most companies would gladly offer this to any employee who needed this help if the employee asked. But the policy needs to be put in place now, in advance, and universally. Because this is the rare instance where a policy is actually pretty much in line with what a company would do anyway, it could be seen as unnecessary. But I assure you it is actually very necessary.

First, it is a tremendous statement of the organization’s values. A denouncement of domestic violence, and the willingness to put the company’s money to support individuals who are victims of this epidemic, and the simple willingness of the company to raise this is it as an issue and to take it out of the shadows and into the public eye -- all of these things are tremendously impactful statements that are essential for a company focused on diversity and inclusion and welcoming and advancement and creating a hospitable environment for its employees.

Second, a policy will protect your employees. And not just the employees who may become victims of domestic violence. As an employer, you do not want to put managers in the position where they are being forced to make decisions on life or death matters without any context or on their own, without the organization’s support. This is too important of a matter to leave to the discretion of an individual manager at the moment. The policy needs to be clear-cut and well stated and available, and everybody needs to know not just what is in the policy but how to employ it. This is for the entire company’s welfare.

Finally, the universal adoption of these policies by companies will reduce domestic violence in the United States, significantly. Awareness is critical. Awareness is fundamental to the reduction of any sort of epidemic, especially one like domestic violence. Victims need to understand that they are indeed victims, that this is not their fault, that they need not feel shame, that they have the support of their employers and the broader community. And perpetrators or potential perpetrators need to know that not only are they in violation of the law and in violation of the morals of our society but that also the country is united in denouncing, resisting, and seeking to eliminate this type of behavior.

There is an organization in Chicago called Chicago Says No More which is dedicated to this exact issue, to raising awareness about domestic violence as an epidemic and to call on the business community to adopt these sorts of policies and implement them immediately. You can visit their website and take their pledge, and you can easily find resources that you can deploy at your company or pass along to the people at your company who can do this for everyone.

5 million women a year are victims of domestic violence in this country. 5 million! That means if there are 100 women at your company, odds are that several of them have experienced horror and terror that is almost unfathomable. Our companies need to step up on behalf of these victims. Today.