Off-duty Domestic Violence — What’s an Employer to Do?

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(Robin Shea) As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can tell you, it isn’t easy for an employer to handle off-duty domestic violence situations.

Sometimes your employee is the victim. If so, you may have someone who is distracted, scared, upset, or frequently absent because of physical injury or psychological trauma, or court appearances. She (or he – men can be victims, too) might be spending too much time commiserating with coworkers and not working. And you always have to worry about the possibility that the abuser will show up, causing this “private matter” to spill over into your workplace. Because of these risks, it isn’t unheard of for an employer to terminate the victim because her abuser’spresence is creating too much disruption in the workplace, or putting customers or students at risk.

Sometimes your employee is the perpetrator. But maybe he (or she) behaves like a choirboy at work, and is great at his (or her) job. If you fire for off-duty conduct that has no noticeable impact on your workplace, could the employee assert a claim against you for discrimination or some other type of wrongful termination?

In this legal environment? Do I really have to ask?

In short, there are no easy answers for employers in these situations. But here are a few ideas.


*Adopt a policy on domestic violence (if you don’t already have one), and encourage victims to get help. If your company is big enough and you have the means, you might even want to offer optional evening classes or support groups for victims and their children. The Human Resources department is a great place to house information about community resources for domestic violence victims, such as shelters, individual or family counseling, and social and legal services. You can also post the information on your company intranet, and on bulletin boards. If you have an employee assistance program, you can offer that, as well.

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November 24, 2014 |

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