Violence against women has been in the headlines lately – the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is engendering vigorous debate, and as of last month, federal agencies were ordered to implement policies to assist their employees who are victims of domestic violence. Also last month, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University published a paper entitled “Workplace Homicides Among U.S. Women: The Role of Intimate Partner Violence” in the Annals of Epidemiology, which found that from 2003 to 2008, 648 women were murdered in the workplace. Employer liability can result from workplace violence incidents, even when committed by a non-employee. Indeed, although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has no specific standard addressing workplace violence hazards, OSHA has released voluntary guidelines to address these issues in various industries. For more details, see our previous post here on the OSHA Law Update Blog: Workplace Violence Policies and Background Checks Are Essential Components of a Prevention Plan.
Given these trends, employers should review ways they can prevent domestic violence in the workplace and accommodate employees who may be victims of domestic violence.