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Chapter 5: Domestic Violence in the Workplace

In the past, violence that occurred in the home was considered a private problem and not the business of a victim’s employer or co-workers. The truth is that domestic violence frequently spills into the workplace. For example, according to the New York City Victim Services Agency, during a one-year period threequarters of battered women were harassed by their abusive partners in person or by telephone while at work.The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace every year.

To a limited degree, private —and public—sector employers have taken steps to address domestic violence at work. For example, state agencies and higher educational institutions in the state of Washington have developed policies and procedures to assist victims of domestic violence.These include domestic violence awareness training, planning for workplace safety, and responding to threats and reports of domestic violence.

Examples of how AFSCME locals can address domestic violence in the workplace include:

  • Work to establish or expand Employee Assistance Programs to provide services for victims of domestic abuse.
  • Negotiate for paid leave for domestic violence victims to attend legal proceedings, tend to family emergencies and attend counseling sessions.
  • Negotiate for paid legal assistance for domestic violence victims.
  • Encourage management to enhance security in the workplace to prohibit the victim’s abuser (and other non-employees) from entering the work area unescorted.
  • Sponsor workshops on domestic violence.
  • Make available information on domestic violence, including phone numbers and locations of nearby shelters.
  • Assist victims with legal action such as filing charges with the police or obtaining a restraining order against the abuser. (In some states, the employer has the right to obtain a temporary restraining order against the abuser.)
  • Provide advance warning and photographs to security guards and workers in the building about the danger posed by the victim’s abuser.

Contact AFSCME’s Women’s Rights Department by calling (202) 429-5090 for more information on domestic violence and what local unions can do about it.

AFSCME in Action

Since 1995, AFSCME’s contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides employees up to 10 days of paid leave to attend necessary legal proceedings or activities in instances where the employee or his/her children is a victim of domestic abuse.

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