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NFL Now Has a Domestic Violence Policy; What About Your Company?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on September 23, 2014 9:32 AM

The NFL has announced that it will train league staff on recognizing and preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. The news comes after, well, a whole lot of players were allegedly involved in domestic violence: Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer all received suspensions while investigations are pending.

More importantly, the news comes after sponsors pulled their deals when the league failed to act initially.

No matter what the true motivation was, the program is a good move for the league, which in the past, has been criticized for ignoring the problem. Should other companies follow suit?

The Argument for a D.V. Policy

Inside Counsel has an interesting interview with Meagan Newman, an attorney at leading labor law firm Seyfarth Shaw. The article contains two very interesting statistics that point to the need for a workplace policy:

  • Only 4 percent of employers report that they conduct training on domestic violence, and
  • One in five U.S. employees identifies as a person who has been a victim of intimate partner violence.

"Lost productivity alone accounts for approximately $8.3 billion in losses to U.S. companies," Newman noted. "There are also the costs associated with potential litigation under Title VII, the ADA and tort claims for failure to provide adequate security to take reasonable action in response to an employee's complaint that they fear for their safety. Employers also face liability under OSHA for failure to ensure a workplace free from recognized hazards, and under a myriad of state and local laws that provide employee protections for those affected by domestic violence."

The Argument Against a D.V. Policy

It would be hard to find anyone who doesn't think that domestic violence is a problem, but many would argue that it has nothing to do with the workplace. While sexual harassment as well as other forms of harassment and bullying are more common in the workplace, domestic violence typically happens at home. They would argue that this is a private issue that is best left to law enforcement.

Also, at least for the aforementioned NFL players, they are all under investigation for alleged domestic violence. (Alright, we've seen the Rice video, but for the rest of 'em, they are innocent -- and suspended -- until proven guilty.) Do we want all employers to start suspending their employees whenever an allegation of violence is made?

The Answer Is Probably Somewhere in Between

With all due sympathy to those who are falsely accused, and with all respect to due process, it does seem advisable to have some policy in place, especially one that provides resources for victims of domestic violence.

Newman suggests that employers think about having policies in place in case it becomes necessary to obtain a restraining order or security professionals on hand to protect a victim who is also an employee, as well as a policy for dealing with employee-perpetrators.

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