The Hidden Safety Hazard – Domestic Violence


The Hidden Safety Hazard – Domestic Violence

Date: November 1, 2012

By Betsy Weintraub (Former Prosecutor)


As the holidays are approaching, you notice that Susan, one of your longtime employees with a near perfect attendance record, has missed several consecutive days of work due to an unspecified illness. When she returns to work, Susan looks like she has spent the past several days in the tanning bed. It seems unusual because Susan is so health conscious, but you shrug it off. Susan calls in sick again the next day.

When she returns to work this time, her face is plastered with heavy makeup. Even though it is warm in the office, Susan leaves her winter scarf snug around her neck for the next several days. Susan’s department manager reports to you that Susan’s work performance is sliding – she is not nearly as productive and efficient as she used to be. The manager also expresses concern over Susan’s behavior. She seems withdrawn and edgy, sometimes overly emotional when the manager asks her about her work performance. You assure the manager that you will talk to Susan after the holidays.

A few weeks later, you invite Susan to your office for an informal meeting. She sits down in the chair across from you. That is when you notice the bruises. Her arms are covered with them, in various colors and sizes. Her fake tan is starting to fade. You try not to stare as you chat with Susan about her work. She assures you that she will do better; she has just had trouble concentrating lately.

As Susan returns to her desk, you flip through the employee handbook, even though you know that there is not a policy to guide you through this situation. You call your supervisor and tell him that you think one of the employees is a victim of domestic violence. “Are you sure?” he asks. You admit that you do not have any proof, but you have a strong feeling that something is going on at home. After a moment of silence, your supervisor tells you the best thing to do is just let it go. “It’s a personal matter,” he says, “we would not want to embarrass her or invade her privacy. Just let her be.”

You try to ignore it. When Susan shows up at work one day with her arm in a cast, you accept her story that she fell in her driveway. When two of Susan’s co-workers tell you that Susan came to work with a swollen lip and discolored cheek, you tell them to respect her privacy. When the receptionist mentions that Susan’s husband has been calling ten to fifteen times a day, you send Susan an email reminding her of the company policy on personal calls at work. Susan’s husband stops calling, but starts showing up at the office.

The first time, Susan seems a little nervous, but she smiles when her husband produces a bouquet of flowers from behind his back. When he shows up the next time, however, he doesn’t have flowers. He takes Susan outside to the parking lot. When she returns to her desk fifteen minutes later, Susan seems upset, but you don’t say anything. You would not want to embarrass her.

His visits become more and more frequent, and he always takes Susan outside the office to talk to her. Sometimes, when you leave work, you notice him sitting in his car, waiting in the parking lot. This goes on for weeks until, suddenly, one day, it stops. Susan’s husband seems to have disappeared. He doesn’t call or come by the office, and Susan seems to be returning to her old self. Her work and attendance improves and she stops wearing so much makeup. You feel a sense of relief, thinking that she must have finally left him. Your supervisor was right: the problem took care of itself.

A month or so later, your heart stops when you pull into the company parking lot. There are police cars everywhere. An ambulance. You run up to the EMTs

just as they are loading Susan inside. There is so much blood on her face and hair that you hardly recognize her. She is unconscious. You turn around and see her husband as the police load him into the back of a car. Another officer carefully picks up a hammer off the ground and places it in a plastic evidence bag. His latex gloves are covered in blood.

Please read the entire Article at the Fisher & Phillips LLP Website.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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