On August 31, 2015, a woman was shot and killed by her husband at her place of employment during a dispute at the WIC office in Pascagoula, Mississippi. WIC is the federally-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program.

Over and over, domestic abuse, particularly to women, spills into the workplace, with tragic consequences. It is well documented that women are much more likely than men to be victims of on-the-job intimate partner homicide. Spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends and ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends were responsible for the on-the-job deaths of 321 women and 38 men between 1997 and 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 33% of women killed in U.S. workplaces between 2003 and 2008 were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

Domestic Violence at Work: What Role Does a Security Director Play?

In the past, domestic abuse was treated as taboo and victims were often ignored. However, times have changed: our society is more educated and aware of the signs of domestic abuse, and most of us agree that we need to treat employees who may be victims of domestic abuse with compassion. From a more practical view, most states have laws prohibiting the denial of career advancement or firings merely for being a victim of domestic abuse.

It all comes down to the same phrase: see something, say something. When conducting threat assessments or talking to our clients about workplace violence prevention, we encourage everyone to be familiar with the signs of odd behavior and to be aware of the company’s policies on reporting such behavior. Security directors should work closely with their human resources department to encourage employees to notify their employer of any protective orders filed within a judicial system. The human resources department should be prepared to refer employees who are concerned about domestic abuse to resources that can help them.

There should be a standardized protocol for managing the notification of active protection orders. That protocol should include the security director having direct contact with the petitioner in the case to obtain specific details of the situation in order to assess the level of response required.

7 Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Domestic Violence at Work

As a security director, you may be faced with working with someone who is a victim of domestic abuse. In conjunction with the human resources department, you might consider these seven tips:

  1. Review the protective order submitted to ensure the place of employment is reflected in the order. If it isn’t, urge the employee to have the issuing judge modify the order.
  2. Often, the protective order may be known only by the local police jurisdiction from which it was issued. The local police jurisdiction covering the work site should also be aware of the order in case the person of concern is seen in the area or in the event they violate the order and a public safety response is needed. 
  3. Consider offering a special parking place for the employee in close proximity to a security checkpoint or entrance at the office.
  4. Suggest that the employee change his or her email address.
  5. Obtain a photo of the subject to post at appropriate checkpoints and provide to local police.
  6. Obtain a list of resources from the local police for victims of domestic abuse to provide the employee.
  7. Ensure that the human resources department provides assistance to employees who may be victims of domestic abuse with resources such as an Employee Assistance Program.

Discretion, respect and compassion are the keys to a successful program to protect victims of domestic abuse in the workplace. The privacy of the victim should be a high priority throughout this process.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse – emotional, psychological or physical – please seek help immediately.

If you need assistance in establishing policies and procedures within your organization as part of a workplace violence prevention strategy, please reach out to me for more information.


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