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May 06, 2002
More Employers Assisting Abuse Victims
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e employers are helping their employees deal with domestic abuse, according to Washington Post workplace columnist Amy Joyce.

These employers realize that employees who are being abused at home can't help but have a tough time functioning at work.

Pam Taylor, executive director of the Verizon Wireless call center in the Washington area, has been privy to such situations.

"We've had several different employees approach us at different times" describing abuse that affected their productivity or their lifestyle, she told Joyce. Some victims just need a few days off to go to a court hearing. Others have asked for a flexible schedule, or even a transfer to a different office.

"We generally work with these individuals to give them this room and to give them job security," said Taylor. The last thing domestic-violence victims need -- especially if they have summoned the courage to leave a violent relationship -- is to lose their job.

Joyce writes that the help provided by Taylor and others like her comes back to help the company. "They come back more loyal than before because we worked with them," Taylor said.

Employers shouldn't consider themselves counselors, but they can provide environments where workers feel comfortable enough to explain, for instance, why they haven't been very productive lately.

"We know the workplace can be a place of solace, the one place a victim can be throughout the day to regroup," said Stacey Pastel Dougan, assistant general counsel at Greenberg Traurig LLC, who works in the firm's Miami office. "But it also can be a trap, because that's where perpetrators know where to find the victim."

That makes workplaces the best place to provide information and resources to employees, she added.

Dougan told Joyce that she implemented a workplace policy at her firm after representing a woman on trial for killing her abuser. "It was such a herculean task to help this woman - and I'm with a huge law firm, with major resources," she said. So she subsequently went to the law firm's chief executive and asked if he would consider establishing a program for company employees who are in abusive relationships.

Through her, the firm soon formed an alliance with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Alliance for Battered Women.

"We know our employees are dealing with these issues," Dougan said. "In any corporation our size, you know you have a very significant percentage of employees that are affected" by domestic violence.

In Miami-Dade County, employers of 50 or more people have to offer 30 days of unpaid leave for employees experiencing domestic violence. Nationwide, about 5 percent of companies have some sort of domestic-violence policy. And the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act, legislation that was introduced last year, would require employers to provide emergency leave for victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. It would also bar employers from discriminating against victims in hiring, firing or promotions.


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