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When is it your problem?

You don’t have to spend long in management in a restaurant or retail business before having that uncomfortable experience of seeing an employee, usually a female, with unexplained bruises.  The easy thing to do is reason that whatever caused it was her problem and that, as long as it didn’t affect her work, there was no need to get involved.

Statistically the most likely cause of unexplained bruises is domestic violence and if it isn’t currently affecting her work when it’s observed, it will be soon enough. Every business is affected by this.  Domestic violence spans social and economic categories. There is a misconception that it is more likely in lower income, less educated households.  That is not the case.  The only difference is that the higher income, better educated victims are more likely to have access to the wherewithal to cover it up or escape.

In 2010 I joined the board of directors of a local organization, called InterAct,  dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence.  In my 4 years there I learned that 26% of all homicides in the US are at the hands of domestic partners.  I became aware of the social impact of domestic violence and its impact on the victims, especially the children who often witness the abuse.  The sons of abusive fathers learn this behavior and virtually all abusive men come from abusive homes.

There is a business cost to this as well.  Absenteeism and punctuality are affected by Domestic Violence. The costs of insurance claims or visits to the emergency room caused by violence in the home affect insurance rates. Reduced productivity caused by depression or post traumatic stress impacts not just the employee involved but her co-workers as well.  And the turnover when the employee can no longer work for physical or psychological reasons has a known cost.

So what should you do about it?

First, take a few minutes and educate yourself on what services are available in your community to help.

One big advantage today is that many communities have help in the form of a private or public organization dedicated to support for victims of domestic violence. Most of these organizations are not highly visible and most employers (and victims) are unaware.

Discreetly make this subject part of the employee orientation for every employee.  Along with health care and other support features offered by you or the company, let them know that the community offers support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and if “you or someone you know” has questions or needs help there is a number they can call.

If you are in a leadership position make it part of the management training program so managers know what to look for and how to offer help.  Make sure they know the community resource for such problems, and how to reach them.

With the low unemployment and high turnover environment we find ourselves in today,  every competent employee is important and to the extent you come across as a concerned, empathetic place to work your ability to attract and retain quality workers gets better.

Bob McDevitt CFE,Senior Vice President, Franchise Development
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