How Title IX Can Inform Private Employers’ Response to Relationship Violence | Spilman Thomas & Battle, LLC

How should an employer respond if an employee experiences relationship violence? What if the partner threatened the employee at work?

Employers need to be aware of these situations, because relational violence in the workplace is more prevalent than it seems. According to statistics cited by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 44% of full-time employed adults in the United States have reported domestic violence in their workplace, and 96% of employed domestic violence victims have encountered problems at work in the workplace. reason to abuse it. Relational violence poses a threat to any abused employee, as well as to co-workers and others who step in to help.

Educational institutions across the country — and their designated Title IX coordinators — routinely handle these types of situations. Examining the security measures employed in the context of Title IX can inform all employer actions to support employees and prevent workplace violence.

A. What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Prohibited sexual harassment includes sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

Title IX coordinators oversee sexual discrimination/harassment reports and handle related issues. This article focuses on commonly employed campus safety supports and considerations in the context of Title IX as a potential resource/method for employers to address workplace violence issues.

B. Title IX Strategies and Resources
In responding to reports of relationship violence, Title IX coordinators implement supportive measures, including counseling, time extensions or other class-related adjustments, changes to work or class schedules, restrictions of contact between the parties, furloughs and enhanced security, among other things, to deter sexual harassment and to protect the safety of the parties involved and the campus environment. Parties are also informed about off-campus support services, how to report criminal behavior to the police and obtain civil protection orders, and safety planning.

Title IX coordinators also work with threat assessment teams such as security officers, human resource directors, and student affairs on campus security procedures. The measures employed include:

  • Restrict access to the campus by third parties;
  • Increase security patrols or law enforcement presence;
  • Obtain a photograph or physical description of the offender;
  • Receive a copy of the protective order obtained by a reporting party;
  • Development of an individualized safety plan;
  • provision of on-campus escort services;
  • Relocate housing or campus offices for enhanced security;
  • Use campus alert/notification systems to share emergency response protocols and campus-wide safety reminders (e.g., lock doors and windows, walk in well-lit areas, keep cell phone charged and available, add campus security numbers to speed dial, notify trusted friends of plans, use a buddy system when you go out);
  • Asking campus members to report suspicious activity to campus officials; and
  • Notify police of campus-related threats for investigation.

Schools also conduct Title IX training on relationship violence, learning about warning signs, and intervention strategies.

C. Relational Violence and the Workplace
Employers, like educational institutions, must be prepared—and, indeed, may be legally required—to respond when relationship violence hits the workplace. The Department of Labor (“DOL”) provides a business reason to prepare: Workplace violence has enormous costs, including lost productivity and morale, increased expenses for safety, personnel and worker compensation. workers, serious psychological consequences and loss of life.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), any act or threat of violence, harassment, bullying, or similar disruptive behavior that occurs in the workplace is workplace violence. work. Therefore, relationship violence that occurs at work is workplace violence. Employers regulated by OSHA must have a workplace violence prevention program that includes employee training and proper controls in place.
Employers can take advantage of the Title IX framework in their own workplaces, including:

  • Inform the employee of national and local support resources to request assistance. This may include services such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline or local resources such as family services and rape crisis centers that help survivors of domestic violence and assault obtain protective orders, a shelter, legal assistance, counseling and other services;
  • Ensure employees are aware of employer-sponsored employee assistance programs;
  • Become familiar with how to report incidents to law enforcement and how to obtain a Civil Protection Order;
  • Develop flexible policies for employees facing violence, including time off or time off to obtain a protective order or attend criminal proceedings, and provide for family and medical or sick leave, as appropriate, if an employee or a family member has been injured;
  • Developing a workplace safety plan for the employee, e.g. go out;
  • Identify methods and times to communicate safely with the employee outside of work;
  • Obtain a description or photograph of the offender for use by security or reception staff;
  • Form a Workplace Threat Assessment Team for supervisor review, assistance and awareness;
  • Engage or increase security patrols or law enforcement presence in or around the workplace;
  • Advise employees to report suspicious behavior to security or a designated official;
  • Train employees on workplace safety expectations, e.g. emergency response protocols for when and how to safely evacuate, hide in place, or take other measures for their protection;
  • Consult with risk management agents available through workplace violence insurance policies;
  • Report imminent threats to law enforcement for investigation; and
  • Maintain periodic check-ins with the employee regarding the status of the situation.

By implementing these types of safety measures, where appropriate, all employers can support their employees and discourage workplace violence caused by relationship violence.

D. Special State Laws for Employees Who Are Victims of Domestic Violence
Some states and localities have laws that protect employees who are victims of domestic violence. In North Carolina, employers with 15 or more employees must grant reasonable time off to apply for a domestic violence protection order. The law also allows employers to obtain no-contact orders on behalf of employees for unlawful contact made in the workplace.

Pennsylvania prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for appearing in criminal court where the employee is a victim or witness to a crime or is a family member of the victim. The City of Philadelphia requires employers to grant employees leave to address domestic violence directed at employees or their families.

Many states and localities have also implemented paid sick and safety leave laws that apply to domestic violence and other forms of abuse, in addition to physical and mental health.

E. Conclusion
It is essential that employers have thought proactively about how to address workplace violence before an event occurs. Title IX provides a framework that employers can use to develop their own workplace violence prevention program. Employers seeking additional information on how to develop an effective workplace violence prevention program should consult their legal counsel.

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