Mind the Red Flags

Female abuse and the workplace

By: Connie Laughlin

Never assume an abused woman caused the mistreatment. In most cases, the smallest most innocent actions can cause someone who’s short an oar to spin out of control. People don’t just snap; there are usually red flags lining the path to violence.

Abusers can be the highly regarded and soft-spoken professional or the guy in front of you in the grocery checkout line. They’re masters of hiding their abusive behavior until you’re already deep into a relationship.

Smart women can find themselves in abusive relationships. It could happen to you, your daughter, your sister, your mother or an employee. And this violence can happen at your workplace. Abusers know where their targets are when they’re at work.

It’s a fact that 12.7 percent of all female violent crimes were committed while the victim was working or on duty. And about half of all workplace crimes go unreported.

Approximately 24 percent of workplace violence (WPV) is related to personal relationships. If you hear or sense something is wrong or out of the norm with an employee, it’s a necessity to document these incidents. Signs of potential workplace violence could be things such as an employee’s acquaintance drives by frequently, drops in or places frequent and/or unwarranted phone calls. Or your employee herself may show signs of stress or abuse. Investigations show that approximately 50 percent of abused women are harassed at work.

Let’s try to prevent this violence and protect one another. Sadly, employers don’t look into WPV strategic initiatives and are unequipped to handle potential situations. It is the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace free of violence in general.

OSHA has guidelines for late-night retail, but companies not under OSHA jurisdiction may not be aware of this information. Potential sources of information valuable to businesses include police department crime prevention units, Web-based violence prevention and security sites and insurance companies.

Even unions have pushed for identification of workplace violence as an occupational issue, not just a criminal justice issue, and support voluntary implementation of WPV prevention programs.

Even without a specific threat, all employees should report any behavior they have witnessed that they regard potentially threatening or violent or which could endanger the health or safety of an employee when the behavior has been carried out on a company-controlled site or is connected to company employment or company business. Employees are responsible for making this report regardless of the relationship between the individual who initiated the threatening behavior and the person or persons being threatened.

If a woman is being stalked or afraid of domestic violence, she must seek a network of support and contact not only the police, but friends, family and workplace management. Everyone needs a safe place to seek shelter and most definitely a plan of action no matter where they might be if they find themselves in a “situation.”

Let’s come together to help one another. If you own a business, you owe it to your employees to provide documented company policy that plainly indicates what constitutes WPV and how to handle any situation. Management must show commitment to provide excellent communication, confidentiality and teamwork, complete with protocols in place to protect one another.


For additional information, contact the City of Corpus Christi Crime Prevention Division at 361-886-2568.

Connie Laughlin is a business consultant for UniqueHR. For more information on outsourcing human resource, payroll, workers’ compensation insurance, safety training and (optionally) benefits, contact her at 361-852-6392 or conniel@uniquehr.com.

*Sources available upon request.

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