Written by Robert D. Sollars
Have no doubts, no matter the gender or relationship, domestic violence WILL invade your organization at some point. Whether that invasion is a screaming hissy fit by a significant other or a knock-down-drag-out between them, or family members, doesn’t matter…it will invade the organization in some fashion, at some point, somehow some way.
I’m hoping that you’ll get some ideas for your organization and remember, as always, tweak these for your own use if need be…there are absolutely NO cookie-cutter solutions for security or preventing violence. What works for one organization may not work for another. You can always contact us to assist you Sollars Violence Prevention Training & Consulting
There are steps that can be taken to minimize injury to the victim and lessen the liability of the organization. Will these tips listed below stop every incident on the property? Probably not, but if you follow them and ensure your security plans are prepared for the possibility…it may prevent…something.
Physical injury will be what a victim suffers from outwardly. However, it is the psychological trauma that can, and more than likely will, follow them for the rest of their lives. This psychological trauma is not easily seen or understood in any organization, but it must be minimized as best as possible.
Let’s begin by assisting the victims by making them feel safe while in the facility. It will also help you to begin building trust and confidence, or more of it, between them and the organization, enabling employees to come forward with such intimate & personal issues.
• Listening and actually believing that the employee may be abused. If the abuser is ‘charming, suave, and debonair…’ it may be hard to believe. But unless an actual investigation is undertaken by the police or other such agency… which is where the trust and confidence in you come into play.
• Looking for the signs of abuse, even if they deny it. These are innumerable in their own right so it is imperative that you or a member of your staff learn to recognize them, which will generally fall to front-line employees & supervisors. Sometimes they’re not so easily spotted:
Long sleeves, slacks, and/or turtle necks in summer
Constantly wearing sunglasses
Jumpier than they would normally be
While discussing their bruises they joke about their clumsiness
Consistently coming into work with minor injuries, scratches, welts, bruises, & etc.
Becoming a loner and staying quiet when the opposite had been true a few months earlier
Alienating friends both at work and elsewhere for no apparent reason
Frequent unsettling phone calls either on company phone or their cell, interrupting workflow and productivity
Of course, there are numerous other signs of abuse. Contact a local domestic abuse shelter, or training organization such as Phoenix Training Group, to get as much information as you can to disseminate to employees.
• Security procedures to protect them. This is where your expertise as a security professional comes into play. You know when and where you can do little things to pump up the effectiveness of the security program to make the facility more secure to keep out unauthorized individuals:
• If possible, issue a photo of the abuser and keep them off the property. Ensuring that all doors are secured with no exceptions for ‘just this once.
• Issuing strict orders that no one is allowed to tailgate, follow behind another employee, into the parking lot or facility, or post a security officer at the gate if necessary. Other measures may be necessary depending on location.
• Adapting high visibility of security in and around the facility…
• Ensuring that surveillance doesn’t become slack for as long as necessary, tough to do for extended periods – not hours but days, weeks, or longer.
• Never allowing an attitude of ‘I know them we’ll do it just this once, even if it isn’t the abuser but a regular joe who works there.
• Having your security officers, or supervisor, escort the employee when necessary to & from their vehicle or even to the bus stop, no matter how far away that may be…across the street or down the block.
While these may seem to be over-the-top, and in some places, a standard practice needs to be reiterated and strictly enforced. There are other procedures that you can tweak to protect one employee as well.
• Employee Assistance programs (EAP). The necessary references to resources to help them, including shelters. This may be up to an EAP provider; however, you need to find one to allow your employees to utilize them. They may not be cheap, but the only other recourse you may have is to keep a list of resources with HR and/or publish it for the taking.
• Can you provide any legal, security, or spiritual assistance? Don’t let your legal department tell you that you are treading on thin ice and you can’t do this…figure a way around it. If necessary, refer them to the EAP for these items, especially legal and spiritual.
However, security is our responsibility. Taking care of people is also a moral imperative. Think about offering assistance with an alarm system or other such items for the home, car, & etc. It may not be much but it could greatly help them, even if it’s cheap and not hundreds or thousands of dollars.
• Can you provide a certain amount of compassionate, paid, leave? Can you give the employee time off to take care of legal issues, court dates, children, and so on? It may take some jiggling of your companies scheduling & financial resources to do this but it’s worth it. You can’t jettison an employee because they are having DV issues or as a result of DV. Going along with this is not counting their absences against them during this time, which according to policy could get them fired.
An example of this is from the early 90s; an employee took leave to care for his young son who was dying of leukemia. When he returned to work, he was disciplined for having let his job performance suffer because of his son’s illness and then burying his 6-year-old. He shot and killed several managers, union reps, & supervisors in the termination meeting a week later. Disciplining them for taking off excessive time can lead to a greater issue that is moral.
• Ease of transferring of employees to different shifts or locations to avoid the abuser if they are stalking them. If your policies state it to a different shift or location, then the process needs to be simplified for everyone concerned…because the victim may not have a day or two to wait. You really don’t want the abuser to know exactly when the employee is there, do you? That makes it dangerous, and potentially fatal, for everyone inside the organization and ancillary stores/offices.
If you are worried that the abuser will come in and begin randomly killing people to find their ‘property’ you probably shouldn’t. Most WPV incidents are targeted and not random. Small comfort I understand but…
• Extra security in parking lots& entrances. It may be financially difficult and unwieldy, not to mention cumbersome for other employees, but some sort of extra measures must be taken, without being intrusive and obvious, to provide everything possible to make them feel safe. This will cost money, but comparing spending several thousand dollars, in extra security costs, to saving the life of an employee and showing you care, is how the commercial says, priceless.
• Recording of phone calls on the company phone or instruction on their cell. The employee needs to be able to have these recordings to take to court and show some measure of abuse or threatening behavior to obtain restraining orders and protect themselves and their children. It may not be of any help, depending on the background, but is it worth it?
• Surveillance of the employee, escorted or not, to and from their vehicle/parking area. Hopefully, you have high-resolution video surveillance of your parking areas. This will ensure that the employee will not be accosted by the abuser on their way to or from their vehicle. If they are, hopefully, the high resolution will show the journalistic who, what, when, where, why, & how of the perpetrator. This is also where being escorted by a security officer or supervisor is helpful, so there is someone there to prevent an assault.
• Privacy and details of the abuse. This must be limited to a need-to-know basis. Security, HR, immediate supervisor, and other such people. If the employee wishes to tell others, then they should be the one to do it, no one else, literally, no one else should know. This should also mean that the security staff, other than the manager or supervisor, doesn’t necessarily need to know all of the details, just increased vigilance for a potential incident.
• Giving safety and security tips for their home and personal security. This could even go as far as aiding in getting an alarm system installed and paying for the monitoring during this difficult time. Additional tips and ideas should be given to the employee by the security manager, consultant, shelter, or police department. As a security professional or HR person, you need to refer them to those places.
While it sounds like you can give this task to someone else to handle, you can’t. How do you know that the situation was rectified and taken care of if you don’t do it? Especially with paying for the installation and monitoring of an alarm system in their home. Remember, your company has a vested interest in keeping them safe, the others can be short-sighted or short funded and not be able to give their full attention to the issue immediately.
It comes down to the company assisting in any way they possibly can. Shame, embarrassment, and humiliation may force some victims to shy away from even asking for help. Your supervisors need to be trained in how and what to look for. Even if the employee says nothing is wrong… that’s not a good enough answer if injuries are consistently seen.
I have talked for several years in my postings that you need to throw out the sacred cows, conventional wisdom, and do what is right not just what is necessary to satisfy the legal requirement. You should push the limits of what is and isn’t legal to protect the employee, like this quote “One finds limits by pushing them.” By Herbert Simon.
Additionally, everything you do to assist them, by necessity, needs to be documented in a file. This will be for any proceedings where you are accused of not doing enough.
Is it possible you will get into trouble and be disciplined for bending the policies and rules to assist? Yes. But there is no better way to build trust within the organization and the employees like doing whatever is necessary to protect just one of them who is in this situation. Going along with this is the idea of…if you are told to stop doing things for them and they are injured or killed because of something you didn’t do, because of a company or legal restrictions, and you didn’t do it…how are you going to feel about it?
Are there other ideas you can utilize to assist a victim who works for your company? Undoubtedly there are. What they depend on your own policies, procedures, jurisdictional restrictions, and own innovative ideas as to what you will do. But remember if you don’t have trust and the confidence of employees, then DV, or any kind of violence, could seriously cause fatalities within the organization because they won’t come to you with the warning signs and ignore them instead.
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