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Work in Progress: Safety at Home and Work


On September 11, 2012, Amanda Connors drove up to the front door of the hair salon she managed in South Dakota and confronted Tyrone Leon Smith, the gun-wielding boyfriend of her employee, Heidi Weber. Mr. Smith fatally shot Ms. Connors and then turned the gun on himself A few days earlier, Ms. Weber had obtained a temporary protection order against Mr. Smith, after he was arrested on a domestic assault charge. After leaving jail, Mr. Smith took the children from their babysitter and drove to the salon’s parking lot. He then entered the salon and tied up the employees, who were later freed upon the intervention of Ms. Weber.

This tragic event takes place with numbing regularity. Week after week, the news media report stories of women (rarely men) who are stalked and attacked, or fatally wounded, by current or former husbands or boyfriends at workplaces, frequently after obtaining an order of protection. Sometimes the intervention of co-workers, customers or other bystanders alleviates the situation, but often bystanders become caught in the crossfire. This column will focus on ways in which co-workers can serve as “upstanders” in preventing the workplace effects of domestic and sexual violence.

Co-workers can engage in a wide spectrum of preventive measures well before any violent or dangerous situation presents itself. This range of action takes the co-worker from a bystander, which implies passivity, to an “upstander,” who takes positive action. Actions by upstanders can promote a workplace culture focused on the productive and safe provision of assistance.

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San Francisco Supervisors Propose Workplace Domestic Violence Policy San Francisco City Supervisors have proposed plans to advance a workplace policy for domestic violence that would apply to city employees. The measure would require all city departments to designate a liaison to handle domestic violence issues with its employees. All liaisons would receive training from the Department of Human Resources, and employees would be required to notify them if they witness or hear about violent behavior. Every city department would also be required to develop emergency response plans for dealing with stalkers who may show up at their victim's workplace to threaten them. For instance, the liaison may arrange for the victim to have priority parking near the office, have phone calls screened or take a leave of absence or work flexible hours to accommodate court appearances or counseling. Supervisors Eric Mar and Malia Cohen have called for support of the proposal after voting to remove suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office for allegedly hitting his wife. They failed to get the votes to pass the removal order, but say they have been motivated to move on the long-delayed policy.

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3 Steps to Prevent Domestic Violence Spillover in Your Workplace How can businesses and any organization avoid domestic violence situations from spilling over into the workplace and endangering all employees? It is vital that businesses are aware of employees’ domestic violence situations and have safety protocols to keep every employee safe in addition to the intended victim. Domestic violence threats must be taken seriously in the workplace and appropriate steps implemented. To prevent a similar situation from occurring in your workplace, follow these three steps: have a policy of supporting domestic violence victims; be prepared to implement a security plan; and call the police for any impending threats.

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Domestic Violence Can Become Public Matter in the Workplace Domestic violence should not be considered a private matter. When a batterer tracks down their victim in the workplace, everyone is at risk. Workplace is a particular menace for domestic-violence survivors because often, it's the one place that remains constant in their lives as they try to evade their abuser.

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