Domestic, Dating, and Sexual Violence and Stalking in the Workplace: A Guide For Supervisors

The prevalence of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and dating violence indicates supervisors and perpetrators of these crimes likely work for you. Employers have a legal obligation and moral imperative to prevent and respond to such violence. Effective workplace responses to domestic, dating, and sexual violence and stalking depend on the knowledge about how these forms of violence are defined and how they impact survivors in the workplace. 

I think one of my employees is a survivor of violence. What should I do?

  • Obtain facts -- not rumors or gossip. The employee is the best source of information but carefully consider how you approach her or him. 
  • Speak to the employee privately, and provide the work-related basis for your inquiry and concern. It is best not to make assumptions about an employee’s personal life. For example, you could state “I have noticed you aren’t acting like yourself. Is something going on that you would like to talk about?” versus “I think you may be having trouble at home. Is that why you have been late to work recently?” 
  • If the employee discloses the violence, ask, “How can I help you?” 
  • Convey the message: “You do not deserve this violence” and offer to support the survivor’s efforts to achieve safety. 
  • Provide a list of community-based service organizations to assist the employee. As the employer, it is not your job to be an expert on violence nor should you counsel the employee about what to do. For a resource list you can provide in these situations, please click here 
  • Consult with the survivor, your security, human resources, legal counsel and, if applicable, the union and law enforcement to determine an appropriate course for ensuring your employees and workplace(s) are secure. 
  • Explain your workplace policy on leave for survivors of violence. You may be required by state law to provide time off for an employee who is a victim of crime or who has experienced violence. Even if you are not legally required to provide time off, can you offer leave or other accommodations so an employee can take care of personal issues related to the violence? 
  • Explain other personnel policies, if any, in your workplace that address these issues. 
  • Explain to the survivor that her or his personal information will be kept confidential, to the extent possible. A survivor’s personal information should be kept confidential and separate from the employee’s personnel file. Employees who are privy to such confidential information should be informed that disciplinary action will ensue for breaching a survivor’s privacy. Employers should share an employee’s confidential disclosures about violence only on a “need-to-know” basis. The list of individuals who must be informed for security reasons should be developed with a survivor’s input and consent. If additional individuals must be informed of the violence or threat of harm, the survivor should be advised before the information is disclosed.

I think one of my employees is a perpetrator of violence. What should I do?

If you believe that an employee is or may be a perpetrator of violence, you should make all reasonable efforts to determine whether this is true. Consult a lawyer and your human resources about the best way to obtain this information and your rights and obligations as an employer. For instance, if the employee is using work time and resources to perpetrate a crime, this could create legal liability on your part. If the employee is abusing another one of your employees, this may implicate your company’s sexual harassment policy as well. 

You should also assess whether this employee may be a danger to other employees or guests on your premises. Seek advice on enhancing workplace safety from your security personnel or local law enforcement. 

For more information in how to handle a workplace response to domestic violence, please visit the Workplaces Respond to Domestic & Sexual Violence.