Domestic violence has repercussions far beyond the home. Statistics show that more than five million women in the United States experience violence at the hands of a domestic partner annually. Despite the name, this kind of abuse also affects the work life of those involved. Domestic violence is a public health issue and like others, affects work, families, relationships, and economic stability. For those who are being abused, the trauma is often compounded by missing work due to injury, stress, or harassment by the domestic partner. It affects people of all genders, socioeconomic status, and careers. What can you do when violence in the home becomes a workplace problem?

Your Rights and What to Do

For those who are experiencing domestic violence, seeking help and support is not always easy. Shame, fear, and intimidation are all reasons that victims may have a hard time seeking help or the ability to immediately leave the situation. A partner may sometimes provide financial support in the household. Yet, when the victim’s work life and economic stability is being threatened by the violence at home, there are things that can be done.

Employers should make employees aware of resources that can help, ranging from posters with national hotlines to awareness of employee assistance programs. Managers should be trained and aware of the signs that someone is experiencing domestic violence and have resources to offer. Employees may also have the right to take paid sick time to address the issue.

Employees who work for an employer covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may have the option to take unpaid leave. FMLA covers employers with more than 50 employees and has other requirements pertaining to the time an employee must have worked there. For those not covered under FMLA, states may have specific domestic violence laws that apply to the workplace and provide options for taking time off without risking their employment. Employers should also be aware of a possible stalking or harassment concern and have a policy to protect the employee from violence at work.

Many states also have laws that protect staff who must take time off from work for legal matters. In these cases, it is important to have the guidance of an experienced domestic violence lawyer who is familiar with specific state laws and can advise you of your rights. For anyone undergoing the trauma of domestic violence, it is critical to get help. Domestic violence organizations, therapists, support groups, and legal advocates deal with this issue regularly and can provide an unbiased and supportive ear. It is important to remember that the abuser is in the wrong and that you as the victim need and deserve safety, emotional support, and solid legal advice.