The University of Michigan is committed to providing information, resources and assistance for needs related to domestic violence. As a supervisor, it is your job to do everything you can to promote safety in the workplace.
Your first priority is to protect the workplace, and in case of immediate danger, you are obligated to dial 911, even at the risk of violating confidentiality agreements made with the survivor. Below is a comprehensive guide to the University of Michigan's expectations for supervisors handling issues of domestic violence. Review the full policy.
It is important for you to be able to recognize possible signs of abuse. Signs that someone in your workplace is being abused may include the following:
- Unexplained injuries or injuries that do not fit the explanations of how they occurred
- Inappropriate dress/excessive make-up
- Minimization and denial of harassment or injuries
- Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home
- Unusual absence or lateness for work
- Sudden or sustained drop in productivity
- Unusual signs of anxiety or fear
- Frequent, upsetting phone calls, flowers, gifts at the workplace
- Isolation, unusual quietness, keeping away from others
The Family Violence Prevention Fund suggests the following steps for approaching the topic with an employee you suspect is being abused:
- Let the employee know what you observed –" I noticed the bruises you had last week and you look upset and worried today."
- Express concern that the employee might be abused –"I thought it was possible that you are being hurt by someone and I am concerned about you."
- Make a statement of support – "No one deserves to be hit by someone else."
As you talk to the employee, keep in mind that people in abusive relationships are not battered because there is something wrong with them. Rather, they are people who have become trapped in relationships by their partners' use of violence and coercion. The better able you are to recognize and build on the resilience, courage, resourcefulness and decision making abilities of a person in this situation, the better able you will be to help them. You should:
- Listen to what they tell you. If you actively listen, ask clarifying questions, and avoid making judgments and giving advice, you will most likely learn directly from them what they need.
- Build on their strengths. Based on the information they give you and your own observations, actively identify the ways in which they have developed coping strategies, solved problems, and exhibited courage and determination, even if their efforts have not been completely successful. Help them build on these strengths.
- Take their fears seriously. If you are concerned about a person's safety, express your concern without judgment by simply saying, "Your situation sounds dangerous and I'm concerned about your safety."
- Do not blame the victim. Tell the person that it is not his/her fault. Reinforce that the abuse is the batterer's problem and the batterer's responsibility, but refrain from "bad-mouthing" the batterer.
If a survivor discloses to you, it is your responsibility as a supervisor to maintain his/her privacy as much as possible. You should immediately provide the survivor with appropriate resources, including:
- U-M Faculty and Staff Assistance Program at 734-936-8660
- U-M Health System Employee Assistance Program at 734-763-5409
- SafeHouse Center at 734-995-5444
- U-M Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at 734-936-3333
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233
You should also encourage all survivors to obtain a personal protection order, and to provide the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (734) 763-1131 (24-hour dispatch) and http://www.police.umich.edu with a copy of the order. Survivors who do not yet have a personal protection order can receive assistance in petitioning for one from SafeHouse or the Department of Public Safety. You may also take one or more of the following actions to increase the safety the survivor, other employees, and the workplace:
- Work with DPS to develop a safety plan
- Allow the survivor to work from a different location
- Screen telephone calls for the survivor
- Adjust the survivor's work schedule
- Provide a photo of the batterer to security and/or front desk receptionists
- Have a police officer from DPS escort the survivor to his/her car