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 She seems withdrawn and edgy, sometimes overly emotional when the manager asks her about her work performance.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.
Useful. I agree.