Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Supervisor Newsletter Archives

Violence: Workplace and Domestic

Q. We hear about mass shootings in schools and in the workplace. It’s frightening. I read that hundreds of employees are shot in the workplace each year. What are the latest statistics? What can supervisors do? How can PAS help?

A. About 450 homicides occur in the workplace each year in the U.S., and about 85% of these are shootings. An equal number of victims are shot and survive. Robbery is the most common reason for shootings, especially in retail locations. Men are five times more likely than women to be a victim of a shooting, but women are 10 times more likely to be shot when the assailant is a domestic partner, lover, or acquaintance. Domestic violence victimization is one circumstance sometimes shared or known by others at work. It is therefore crucial to refer these victims of abuse and violence to PAS, and not become a private confidant. Only a proper assessment will offer the best chance of identifying the level of risk that might exist, and what to do next about it.

Q. I have an employee who gets into fights with customers. He's had run-ins with coworkers, DUIs, and scrapes with the law. He's a classic hothead. I want to fire him, but I fear violent retaliation. Can PAS help or tell me what to do?

A. Your employee has persistent and severe conduct problems. Therefore, a management referral to PAS is appropriate. You could wait and see whether PAS can help the employee change his behavior, but you should discuss the postponement of dismissal with your management advisers. PAS can't participate in administrative decisions. Always consult with management resources, HR, security and advisers when you fear for your safety. If you refer him to PAS, you may wish to view it as an accommodation to help the employee deal with his problems. PAS will assess anger issues, use of alcohol, and other risk issues. Note that you always should refer employees to PAS at the earliest sign of persistent conduct issues. This affords a better opportunity to intervene with chronic employee behavioral problems, which often grow worse.

Q. Why is domestic violence an issue for the workplace? Domestic means this problem is at home, not at work, right?

A. Three quarters of battered women (men are also victims) report being threatened while at work by a partner or spouse. This leads to lost productivity, distractions, and absences from the work place. Other "domestic" issues also affect the workplace, like a violent partner coming to the job site. This can pose a grave threat, and many incidents of homicide in the workplace each year are associated with this circumstance. A partner or former partner of a domestic violence victim may phone or come to the workplace to harass the victim primarily because the job site is a required, familiar, and predictable place for the victim to be. Less often considered, but also costly, is the employee who's the batterer. This person may be less productive, miss work, get incarcerated, or have unpredictable absences when stalking victims and getting into legal trouble. At work, batterers or stalkers may use work time to check up on their victims, or may spend lengthy periods of time on the phone talking and apologizing to their victims following battering incidents. A supervisor may never discover that domestic violence is linked to performance issues, but if you do, don't keep it a secret. Contact the Personal Assistance Service and consult on arranging a referral.

Q. What role can a manager play to help reduce the risk o sexual harassment in the workplace?

A. Technology has introduced new risks for sexual harassment. Prevention training is important, but supervisors should also play an active role and intervene where appropriate to curtail behaviors that could constitute sexual harassment. There simply is no substitute for this role. New risks are posed by instant messaging, blog posts, Facebook, emails, text messaging, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. These tools allow instant irretrievable communications, which can increase the risk of sexual harassment. However, education may be working, because according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the total number of claims filed for sexual harassment has decreased each year since 2010. On the other hand, the number of total claims filed by men has increased to about 17.6% of total filings. Meanwhile, the dollar value of financial awards to victims has risen dramatically. For the latest statistics, go to and type "sexual harassment charges 2013" in the search bar at the top.

Q. One of my employees says her husband is violent. When I suggested that she go to Personal Assistance Service for help, she seemed reluctant to make an appointment. Other employees are worried for her. Her husband is the only spouse who has brought roses to the office. Frankly, he seems nice. What do you think is going on?

A. There are many possibilities, but you should still encourage her to visit or phone Personal Assistance Service to discuss her situation. A sudden crisis or incident in her relationship may increase her motivation to seek help, but if she is a victim of domestic violence, the reluctance you see now is not inconsistent with how victims of abuse sometimes react. This "battered spouse/partner syndrome" frequently includes a belief that the batterer is superior and in control of the victim. Victims of domestic violence also believe the batterer can appear charming and nice to others and therefore would never be suspected as a batterer. Batterers sometimes demonstrate a pattern or cycle of growing tension, releasing it through battering, blaming the partner, and then demonstrating remorse and overindulgence (e.g., bringing roses to the office) to make up for the violence. The cycle then repeats. Do not eliminate the possibility of formally referring your employee to Personal Assistance Service based on the impact that the employee's relationship situation may have on your work environment. It sounds drastic, but sometimes an employee's domestic violence situation creates disruption to the workflow and efficiency of the office due to frequent and threatening calls to the spouse/partner from the batterer. Other concerns involve unwelcome and unannounced visits to the workplace from the batterer.

Q. How many times should I recommend Personal Assistance Service to my employee for an ongoing saga of fights and domestic troubles at the employee's home that we hear about frequently? The employee has never followed my recommendation to make an appointment to see a Personal Assistance Service counselor. Should I refer the employee somewhere else?

A. You should continue to recommend Personal Assistance Service to your employee whenever information about a personal problem or serious concern is shared. The Personal Assistance Service counselor will conduct a proper assessment to determine if your employee needs a referral to any specialized source of help. Although your employee has not made an appointment with Personal Assistance Service yet, there is a strong possibility she or he will eventually contact Personal Assistance Service. Why? The problems being experienced by your employee appear to be chronic. This means she or he will likely experience periodic crises that will get worse over time. These crises are opportunities for your employee to choose a healthier path by accepting help from Personal Assistance Service. So continue to recommend it.

Q. I always thought that domestic violence was almost exclusively a behind-closed-doors phenomenon and that the workplace was simply not in the picture. Is domestic violence something employers really need to be concerned with as a business matter?

A. Business and industry are severely affected by domestic violence because of lost productivity, health care costs, absenteeism, turnover, negative effects on workers, and direct risks to the workplace when violence comes through the door. According to the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, the health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceeds approximately $6 billion each year. The annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence is estimated at $727.8 million, with more than 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year. In recent years Corporate Alliance has expanded to help educate young people to support zero tolerance for dating violence in an effort to curb problems with future employees.

Personal Assistance Service is a resource to assist managers who may have questions about Domestic Violence in their work area. Personal Assistance Service staff can also provide assistance to individuals who are concerned about themselves or others who may be experiencing any type of relationship violence.