Safety and Security Concerns
Chicago Sun-Times (September 3, 2004) — A child-care worker says she was fired from her job after telling managers she had an order of protection against her ex-husband. Jill Kelly filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Bright Horizons Children's Centers Inc. and Motorola for firing her in 2001. She had headed a division of Bright Horizons in Libertyville, a day-care facility for the children of Motorola employees. She says she told security her ex-husband called her at work despite the restraining order. Managers later terminated her because they were unsure the campus was safe, she claims. A Bright Horizons spokeswoman had no comment.
New York Times (May 31, 2011) — The supervisor of a housekeeper at the Pierre Hotel was suspended on Tuesday after she failed to report to the police the housekeeper's complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a prominent Egyptian businessman, causing a 15-hour delay in the investigation. The supension came as the Pierre and the Sofitel New York, where a sexual assault involving another international figure was alleged to have occurred, made new commitments to imporve safety measures for their workers. The Egyptian businessman, Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, was arraigned just before midnight on Tuesday on charges that he sexually abused a 44-year-old housekeeper who brought tissues to his room at his request... The arrests have prompted the hotel industry to consider new safety rules and training.
Many employers believe they should simply remove the employee who is the perpetrator's target to reduce the risk of violence in the workplace. Yet, it isn't that simple. There are other concerns, such as potential liability, the loss of good employee, and the ethical concern of firing an employee who was not responsible for the threat. Even if the targeted employee is fired and removed, there is still a chance that the perpetrator will show up at the workplace. Figuring out the proper response is even more complicated when the perpetrator is an employee or customer.
The Most Effective Response
The most effective response in dealing with the workplace threat of a perpetrator's criminal behaviors is to treat that threat like any external threat to the workplace. All threats of workplace violence, including those from co-workers, customers, acquaintances. significant others of employees, or outside strangers, are the employer's responsibility. Do not expect that the victim has the ability to control or limit the risk.
For example, when a customer obsessed with a sales clerk in a retail business calls and repeatedly contacts the sales clerk to tell her about sexual dreams he has of her, and talks frequently about coming into work to see her, a supervisor may think that simiply terminating the sales clerk would be the easiest way to deal with this problem. The supervisor may also think that adjusting the clerk's position, changing her location or shifting her office may be an acceptable strategy. However if it is a change that might be deemed less favorable to her it could be seen as an adverse action against the employee. It is important to carefully consider all options to determine the most effective response.
There are some smart, strategic solutions to the risks of domestic and sexual violence at work. Proactive solutions require planning, and the creation of coordinated responses that are automatically triggered into action when a workplace threat presents itself. The backbone of such actions is a workplace policy that ties domestic and sexual violence to any workplace violence prevention policy and procedure. See the Workplace Policy Creation Tool on this website. If your workplace does not have a formal security department, designate someone to be responsible for essential security functions. Ensure that they understand the differences between domestic violence and sexual violence. One is linked to intimate partner violence (DV) and the other may not be but is clearly linked to an individual's ownership of their body and sexuality. Check your sexual harassment policy to ensure your protection of workers from vendors, contractors, or others that come into your business and have contact with your employees.
Without employee and management training, those automatic responses will probably not function. Review suggestions for Workplace Education and Training on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Check out the following sections on this website for ideas on strengthening your overall workplace violence prevention procedures to deal with domestic and sexual violence threats.
- When Does Domestic and/or Sexual Violence Become Workplace Violence?
- Adapting the Threat Assessment Process to Domestic and Sexual Violence
- Workplace Security and Safety Procedures
- When the Abuser and Victim are Both Employees