The Impact of Domestic Violence in the Workplace

This blog is by guest writer, Mr. John Savas, who has more than 25 years of human resource experience in both corporate and consulting roles, and has worked with a variety of industries in public and private companies, family-owned businesses, and non-profit organizations.

Workplace Violence and Domestic Violence are Related

People often wonder why we talk about domestic violence in the same breath as workplace violence. After all, one happens at home and the other is usually some ticked off former employee who goes back to the office to wreak havoc, right? While the former employee scenario is just one of many types of workplace violence, other perpetrators of workplace violence include disgruntled employees, criminal outsiders, and those who have a personal relationship with the victim. This last one is normally characterized as domestic violence that spills over into the workplace with women at a higher risk of being victims of this type of violence.

The Numbers Do Not Lie  

Statistics tell us that one in four women is likely to be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Consider the enormity of that statistic and then think about your own workplace. That means that virtually every business has women who have been, currently are, or will be victimized by a partner. In 2014, 7% of workplace homicides were a direct result of a personal relationship. It is so important for companies like yours to step up efforts as they relate to domestic violence. Aside from it being the right thing to do to protect your employees and provide them a safe and supportive environment in which to work, businesses are incurring significant costs as a direct result of domestic violence, above and beyond the effects of the actual violence that occurs at work.

Understanding the Health Issues of Workplace Violence

The cost of domestic violence for your business usually falls into one of two categories: health benefit costs and lost productivity. Let’s spend a moment talking about health benefit costs. Did you know that one in three women seen in an emergency room is there as a direct result of domestic violence? Health care costs for women of domestic violence are in excess of $2,000 more each year than those of other similarly situated women. And that estimate is based on the most extreme cases of physical and sexual assault. Less extreme examples such as mental, emotional, and verbal abuse also result in medical plan usage, but statistics are not readily available for these issues.

Lost Productivity from Absence and Abuse  

As for lost productivity, some conservative estimates put absenteeism for victims just over eight days per year, but once again, this only accounts for the most extreme cases of physical and sexual assault. And what about non-absentee lost productivity? Victims of domestic violence are distracted at work due to physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

Domestic Violence Mitigation in the Workplace     

Effective workplace violence policies can make a difference in the lives of the women who work in your organization in addition to creating a supportive workplace culture. Do your policies encourage open communication between employees and your organization? Do your employees feel that they can confide in you if they are experiencing threatening behavior at home without fear of retribution in the form of disciplinary action, lost wages, or possible termination?

When it’s all said and done, the costs to the company for domestic violence can be significant, whether it spills into the workplace or not. When was the last time you thoroughly reviewed your policies, outreach and support programs, and how you handle domestic violence in the workplace? We’re here to help.

Mr. John Savas has been exposed to virtually all areas within HR throughout his career and has been instrumental in the development and implementation of numerous workplace violence prevention and intervention programs, including domestic violence in the workplace. John speaks and trains frequently on topics such as performance management, leadership, harassment and discrimination, and workplace violence.

 


When Domestic Violence Spills Over into the Workplace

This blog is by guest writer, Ms. Pam Paziotopoulos, Esquire, an attorney and national expert in workplace, domestic, and partner violence. Ms. Paziotopoulos is a Strategic Advisor for The Lake Forest Group.

Domestic Violence Spillover

While we consider the Orlando shootings an act of terrorism, many of us might not think of them as an example of workplace violence. The ex-wife of the shooter told reporters that he was prone to violent behavior and physically abused her. He also isolated her from her family, who worked to persuade her to leave the marriage. This was a case of a domestic situation that escalated into violence that infiltrated the Pulse nightclub. In the also tragic Sandy Hook incident, the shooter took the life of his mother and then went to the school to commit one of the most horrific crimes of our time. Once again, domestic violence infiltrated our society.

What can we do? Of course we can’t prevent all of these incidents, but we can make certain that our workplaces have the tools that we need to do everything in our power to prevent these acts from occurring at our organizations. Do you have policies? Training? Incident management teams?  Have you trained your staff to observe and report any behavioral changes of other employees or customers to security? People never snap—there are always pre-incident indicators. As our colleagues at homeland security say, “If you see something, say something.” Taking that extra step to tell someone could save not one life, but many.

Stalking in the Workplace  

Traditionally, prosecutors and law enforcement “react” to crimes after they are committed, such as when someone is shot, injured, or murdered. There are few methods that apply techniques to avoid further violence. The mentality is just to “wait.” We know now that there is no time to wait. We must intervene before the violence escalates. It was this mentality that made it difficult for law enforcement, prosecution, and the judiciary to address stalking cases. Initially, we were puzzled by these cases. With other cases, prosecutors have medical records, paramedic reports, photos of crime scenes, photos of victim’s injuries, and the testimony of independent witnesses. However, in many stalking cases, there are no injuries so there are no pictures, no medical records or paramedic reports, and no crime scene photos. Professionals working in this field must refine their interviewing questions to ensure that they are getting sufficient “behaviors of concern” background information on the case. They must strive to gain insight on how far along the offender is on his path to acting out in a violent manner against the victim or other victims.

Some states have passed laws allowing behaviors of concern/risk factors to be introduced in the case to assess the dangerousness of an offender. Ask yourself. Are you prepared? Do you have a comprehensive workplace violence policy that conforms with the recommendations from the FBI, ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security), SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), and the ABA (American Bar Association)? Do you have a threat management team that is specifically trained on risk assessment and stalking in intimate partner violence cases? Are you creating a culture where your employees feel comfortable divulging information about their unhealthy and possibly dangerous relationships? Make absolutely certain they are communicating that information to your security personnel. It’s the most critical first step in ANY prevention program.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do  

A few years back, I had the pleasure of meeting Eugene Rugala, who at the time was the Supervisory Special Agent for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime for the FBI. Gene and I worked on a number of projects together and also analyzed domestic violence homicides. Gene’s division went on to do a formalized study. The results were fairly predictable and solidified what we thought to be true. The homicide generally occurred directly after separating from the abuser. Thus, we know that during the separation the victim enters a dangerous zone. The first question that should be asked in a preliminary risk assessment is “Have you told the abuser that you intend to leave this relationship or have you already curtailed it?”

It is a well-known fact that in most domestic violence homicides the victim had either recently communicated to the perpetrator that the relationship was at an end or had already terminated the relationship. If the answer to this question is “yes,” the employer will know that the victim will be entering (or already has entered) a potentially very dangerous situation. It is imperative that the employer work with the victim to devise a safety plan for home and for work while looking for ways to adjust the victim’s work schedule and/or workload to ensure that the individual is protected arriving to and leaving from work, as well as during work hours.

Tailored Solution for Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention   

The Lake Forest Group provides fully-customized solutions for companies, colleges, and organizations for the prevention and intervention of violence in the workplace. Implementing a comprehensive workplace violence program requires more than drafting a policy—it requires training, communications, and management commitment. We begin each engagement with a needs assessment that outlines the gaps and opportunities in an effective workplace violence prevention and intervention program, tailoring the program to fit the unique needs of each business and leveraging Pam’s extensive experience in workplace and domestic partner violence.

 


What Is the Best Way to Stop an Active Shooter?

Unfortunately, our country continues to be plagued by tragedies caused by individuals with unregulated access to firearms. What compounds this serious issue is the deadly consequences created by a society that allows people without the legal authority or proper mental capacity to possess weapons. There is no silver bullet or panacea to stem the tide of these horrific events that are occurring all too often, but we can take steps to create a safer environment.

An all-inclusive approach that cuts to the heart of this problem and attacks the genesis of these events is required, rather than responding to the aftermath of the event itself. Instead of focusing most of our attention, energy, and efforts on what can be done to stop an active shooter during one of these attacks, let’s step back and try to determine what caused the incident in the first place.

It All Begins at the Beginning

Your goal should be to identify individuals before they have the means, mindset, and motive to carry out their violence. These events are not spontaneous—people don’t just “snap” and set out on a killing spree. Instead they are premeditated, planned, and if you look closely enough, announced. Having your organization supported by policy is the foundation to an Active Shooter Plan. You need to have the capability to identify, assess, and control anyone exhibiting traits that can be categorized as pre-attack indicators, which without intervention could manifest into violence.

Horizontally, Vertically, and Across an Organization

“Power in numbers” is another remedial action that results in a multi-disciplinary approach with select people up, down, and parallel in your organization, designated to prevent active shooter incidents. Individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and experience will come together and work collaboratively to design a plan to mitigate this threat. After forming a committee of representatives from entities such as management, law enforcement security, medical, mental health, fire, legal, HR, and training, this group will be charged with the mission to collectively develop a strategy and processes for preventing, controlling, and resolving an active shooter scenario.

Addressing Workplace Violence Protects Against an Active Shooter

Because an active shooter event is the most serious form of workplace violence, you must focus on mitigation and creating the processes that prevent any behavior deemed irregular or inappropriate from occurring. To be adequately prepared, you need to direct your attention to security, personnel, policies, procedures, systems, and physical measures. Examples are private guards (security), clinical health professionals (personnel), code of conduct (policies), employee assistance program (procedures), blast text messaging (systems), and lock-operated access points (physical measures). All of these disciplines contribute to the framework of the plan.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Because each situation is unique, knowing the signs to look for using professional judgment or outside assistance may be necessary to determine if intervention is necessary. Some of these signs are: disruptive behavior; physical injuries; absenteeism or tardiness; poor job performance; stalking a co-worker; inappropriate comments; threatening emails; and harassing phone calls. All of these signs could be an indication of a much more serious problem that may require identifying, assessing, and managing a potential violent situation.

Out With the Old and In With the New

The antiquated way to deal with a problem was to remove it. History has taught us that eliminating the source does not resolve the issue. It used to be that workplace managers fired, police officers arrested, and school principals expelled. None of these actions puts an end to the threat; they just delay it. Eventually, people get out of jail or return to the workplace or school to bring closure for themselves. Your best remedy is to have mechanisms that not only prevent, but also treat.

All of these recommended measures that I’ve presented have to be created, implemented, and when necessary, applied. Until then, a truly holistic program is not in place to protect your most valuable assets—your people—against the threat of an active shooter.


Robert Allenby’s 19th Hole Drives Case for Protection

What happened to Robert Allenby could happen to anyone, but when an incident involves a high net worth professional athlete like Allenby—ESPN ranks him 27th in all-time top money leaders at more than $27 million—the importance of personal protection escalates. Whether these multi-millionaires like it or not, high profile often invariably accompanies high net worth. Thanks to the ubiquitous presence of social media and the Internet, every moment in the lives of our socially-engineered celebrities is played out on a world stage. The exposure becomes more magnified and noteworthy whenever even the slightest hint of scandal or some type of wrongdoing surfaces. The reported tawdry combination of alcohol, injury, robbery, kidnapping, and strippers makes for a scintillating backdrop to a viral headline-grabbing storyline.

For the last several weeks, we have watched the saga of professional golfer Robert Allenby played out in the media. While some of the details of the events still remain unknown, Honolulu police recently confirmed the arrest of Patrick Owen Harbison on second-degree identity theft, second-degree attempted theft, and unauthorized possession of confidential information. Harbison was identified on surveillance video using Allenby’s credit cards. According to Allenby, over $20,000 in fraudulent purchases had been charged to his stolen credit cards.

Much of that night is still a mystery, but we do know that on the night after missing the cut for the Sony Open, Allenby went to the Amuse Wine Bar. Videotape shows him leaving the bar at 11:06 p.m., but Allenby does not recall the incidents that led up to him waking up in a nearby park without his wallet, credit cards, or phone, and with fresh cuts to his face and head. After returning to his hotel, Allenby posted images of his bloodied face on Facebook, claiming he had been beaten, robbed, and thrown from the trunk of a car; however, he later clarified that a homeless woman who helped him escape from the park had related those events. At this point, the police have not linked Harbison to a kidnapping plot and are not pursuing any other leads related to this aspect of the case.

With the benefit of hindsight, which always gives us perfect 20/20 vision, I’ve been able to dissect this situation to suggest some risk mitigation strategies to implement that would help to avoid a repeat performance. Let’s start with the victim in this case, Mr. Allenby. As I alluded to earlier, with fame and fortune comes media exposure and personal disclosure. The result is little to no privacy when in the public eye, which in this case was at a drinking establishment. The first rules of safety for everyone from college students to high profile individuals are to be aware of what you are consuming and never let your drink out of your sight. Someone could have spiked Allenby’s wine with some kind of drug that caused him to lose consciousness—and his wallet.

Another consideration is to surround yourself with people you can trust, who have your back, and who would never let something like this happen. Reportedly, Allenby’s caddie was with him, but that individual is better equipped for handing him a club to escape the dangers of the rough than spotting predators preying on the rich and famous. Personal protection starts with employing the services of a security professional who has experience in executive protection, protective advance measures, intelligence collection, and counter surveillance, which all combine to mitigate personal risk.

Here are some examples of what could have been done to safeguard Allenby from the unfortunate set of circumstances of that night in Honolulu:

Executive Protection

By assigning an executive protection specialist to accompany the protectee when in public areas, a trained professional is able to identify someone who is focusing an unusual amount of attention and interest toward the protectee or exhibiting signs of potential harm. Also, a person who is working—and not socializing—sends a clear and compelling message to the bad guys that they may want to reconsider their plans. This person should be a highly-skilled professional trained in protective security responsibilities, including access control measures and practices and the ability to screen and filter anyone seeking access to the protected individual.

Advance Measures

An advance provides structure to account for all events that comprise a schedule and can be conducted if plans to go to places like a restaurant, theater, shopping mall, or pubic venue are known ahead of time. Typically, the site is visited, points-of-contacts established, emergency egress determined, and familiarity with the location attained. Now if something bad happens, contingencies are in place to properly respond to and recover from the incident. To reach optimum protection, a thorough process is used to analyze appropriate risk control measures and implement interrelated countermeasures and protective security methods.

Intelligence Collection

Intelligence collection is mainly done through liaison with the proper authorities, specifically federal, state, or local law enforcement. These entities are invaluable resources to provide relevant information that could impact the person being protected or the event attended. Maybe there’s a planned demonstration and the police advise that the last time this group protested multiple people incurred serious injuries. Armed with this intelligence, the function can be avoided, saving some wear and tear on the client. In addition to this knowledge, appropriate and practical countermeasures and solutions can be offered to discreetly enhance the level of security while at the same time reducing the level of risk.

Counter Surveillance

Counter surveillance is especially important because it is one of the few security measures that allows for threats to be dealt with before they can develop into full-scale attacks. One common denominator of all the different potential threats—whether from lone wolves, militant groups, common criminals, or the mentally disturbed—is that those planning an operation monitor their target in advance. Regardless of the length of time surveillance is performed, the criminal or terrorist conducting it is exposed, and therefore vulnerable to detection. Because of this, counter surveillance—the process of detecting and mitigating hostile surveillance—is an important, though often overlooked, element of protective security operations.


The Boehner Case Speaks to the Need for a Threat Management Plan

The recent arrest of a country club bartender who threatened to kill House Speaker John Boehner makes a strong case for the need for organizations to design and implement an effective threat management plan. After Michael Robert Hoyt was indicted this past January, details of his life, mental health, work history, access to weapons, and regular proximity to a public figure have become available that present a situation in which an established comprehensive threat management plan might have avoided.  An effective threat management plan is constructed and implemented by multiple parties with different, but complimentary backgrounds. An experienced investigator, mental health physician, human resources professional, and protective security expert are examples of the applicable skill sets required to build the plan.

Often serving drinks to Boehner and other high profile members, Hoyt worked as a bartender at the Wetherington Country Club in West Chester, Ohio for five years until he was fired last October after several members complained about him. After his arrest, police searched his home and found an assault rifle magazine, ammunition, and a notebook containing “John Boehner” and “Ebola” among other writings, as well as lists of country club members. Arrest reports state that Hoyt was visibly upset about being fired, which might have prompted him to send an 11-page blog naming Boehner as the devil to his ex-girlfriend, neighbor, and father as well as emails to Debbie Boehner that mentioned his firing. In these communications, he claimed that he had the access and opportunity to poison Boehner’s wine if he had chosen to do so.

Other recovered documents state that Hoyt had been hearing voices though his car speakers telling him that Boehner was evil, eventually leading him to call 911 and ask the operator to tell his father he was sorry. When police went to his residence, he volunteered to be taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Hoyt had been previously treated for a psychotic episode two years ago and prescribed medication, which he stopped taking after six months.

As part of its protective responsibilities, my former employer, the United States Secret Service (USSS), has long held the view that the best protective strategy is prevention. In keeping with that tactic, their threat management efforts identify, assess, and control persons who have the interest and ability to mount attacks against USSS protected individuals. The Exceptional Case Study Project (ECSP), the USSS’s first operationally relevant study on assassins and near-assassins, was completed in 1998. The ECSP was a five-year operational analysis of the thinking and behavior of individuals who assassinated, attacked, or approached to attack a prominent person of public status in the United States. It employed an incident-focused, behaviorally-based approach consisting of a systematic analysis of investigative reports, criminal justice records, medical records, and other source documents, as well as in-depth interviews with subjects.

The ECSP determined assassinations and attacks on public officials and figures are the products of understandable and often discernible processes of thinking and behavior. Most people who attack others perceive the attack as the means to a goal or a way to solve a problem. An individual’s motives and selection of a target are directly connected. Ideas of assassination develop over weeks, months, even years, and are stimulated by television and newspaper images, movies, and books. Potential assassins seek out historical information about assassination, the lives of attackers, and the protectors of their targets. They may deliberate about which target—and sometimes targets—to choose. They also may transfer their interest from one target to another. After selecting a target, attackers and near-lethal attackers develop plans and sometimes rehearse before mounting an attack.

When conducting a threat assessment, protectors and investigators must also pay attention to the individual’s choice of a potential target, assuming the individual has selected a target. The following questions should be addressed:

How well is the target known to the individual? Is the individual acquainted with the target’s work and lifestyle patterns?

Is that information readily available, as in the case of many public officials or highly visible public figures?

How vulnerable is the target to an attack? What changes in the target’s lifestyle or living arrangements could make attack by the individual more difficult or less likely?

How sophisticated is the target about the need for caution?

How concerned about safety is the target? How concerned are those around the target (such as family or staff)?

Let’s see how these individual characteristics, investigative questions, information analysis, and management options apply in the Boehner case. First, the potential attacker had an evident process of thinking and behavior—he blamed the target for the loss of his job and the Ebola virus. Second, the investigation uncovered two red flags—history of mental illness and access to weapons. Third, he communicated with friends, family members, and Boehner’s spouse about his interest in the target. Finally, and the most concerning, the management component was missing because nothing was done to “manage” Hoyt until after the plot was revealed.

We can all learn from this incident and apply it to our own particular situations. We don’t have to fear an imminent assassination to understand the danger of a disgruntled employee and the importance of performing our due diligence in background screenings, proper investigative processes, and assessment capabilities that identify the initial signs of potential threats. When you recognize that a threat management plan must be in place to prevent harm from being done, have access to these resources, and are knowledgeable to the required multi-disciplinary acumen, you have a strong foundation upon which to build your own threat management plan.