Domestic Violence and the Workplace

Long curly-haired black woman wearing a black mask, white shirt, and striped apron leans over a wooden table to look at a toy airplane while white man wearing a black mask, turquoise shirt, and tan apron holds a toy airplane.

Abuse makes it hard to work

The ‘domestic’ part of domestic violence is misleading. While abuse regularly occurs at home, it impacts all other aspects of a survivor’s life—including work. Domestic violence survivors lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year in the U.S. That’s the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs.

Survivors miss work for many reasons. DV-related injuries can make it difficult to work. Abusers may prevent survivors from getting to work by hiding their keys, damaging their car, or refusing to give them a ride or bus fare. Leaving an abusive relationship is also time-consuming. Survivors need to take time out of their day to find new housing, meet with an advocate, or navigate the legal system.

Work is often one of the places where survivors feel safest. Domestic violence leaves survivors isolated from friends and family with few opportunities to reach out for help. At work, they have the freedom to turn to coworkers for support or reach out to organizations like LifeWire for help. Many of our helpline calls come from survivors who are at work.

Abuse at work

Because survivors can find support and safety at work, abusers may try to get them fired. By one estimate, nearly 75% of employed survivors have experienced harassment at work from their abuser either in person or on the phone. Survivors who are regularly late to work, miss hours, or become distracted because of abuse are especially vulnerable to losing their jobs. That puts them at even greater risk of being dependent on their abuser for housing and other necessities.

The pandemic changed how many of us work. Unfortunately, working from home has left many survivors even more isolated. Abusers are able to monitor work phones and computers, making it harder for survivors to reach out.

What can businesses do to help survivors?

Survivors who have employment and financial stability are more likely to reach and maintain independence from their abuser. Companies can take action to help survivors to keep their jobs and build safer lives. Remember that coping with the effects of domestic violence takes time and companies need to make a long-term commitment to support survivors at every stage of their journey.

  • Develop policies and practices that support survivors, including flexible and paid leave.
  • Educate employees about domestic violence and speak out on the issue.

Additional resources:

Washington State Domestic Violence Leave: Washington State provides victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the opportunity to take time off from work. 

WorkPlaces Respond: Has a number of resources for employers or managers who want to develop their own domestic violence workplace resources and policies. They also have a section with advice on supporting workers experiencing violence during the pandemic.