• Domestic Violence in the Louisiana Workplace: What Is Domestic Violence and Why Should Employers Pay Attention?
  • June 8, 2016 | Author: Rachael M. Coe
  • Law Firm: Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. - New Orleans Office
  • It is not a matter of if, but when an employer will be confronted with a challenging domestic violence-related issue in the workplace. Domestic violence not only causes lost productivity and increased costs for employers, but also raises a host of potential legal obligations and liabilities that employers cannot afford to overlook.

    Domestic violence is absolutely an employment law issue. Not only is Louisiana one of the states with the highest prevalence of domestic violence in the nation, but this type of violence comes in many forms and cuts across many employment laws. Despite the breadth and prevalence of domestic violence, very few employers are aware of its significant impacts in the workplace, from the Americans with Disabilities Act to workplace violence prevention policies. Even fewer employers have plans in place to reduce legal risk.

    Domestic violence is not just confined to the home, and is not just between spouses. Louisiana domestic abuse laws protect victims (both male and female) who are spouses, dating partners (including heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples), family members (including stepparents, stepchildren, foster parents and foster children), and household members. Domestic violence is much more than just physical violence: it is a system of power and control over the victim that can manifest in many ways. Victims may experience mental, psychological and sexual abuse; extreme control over the finances, whereabouts, and day-to-day activities; threats and intimidation; custody battles; physical stalking and cyberstalking; and career and interpersonal relationship sabotage—just to name a few.

    Louisiana has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. In 2014 alone, over 8,000 Louisianans received help from domestic violence shelters and Louisiana courts issued over 3,000 protective orders. The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that approximately 20,000 people receive assistance from domestic violence programs in Louisiana each year. Some of these victims may be your employee.

    The cost of domestic violence adds up quickly and dramatically impacts productivity and bottom lines. The Department of Labor estimates that 8 million work days are lost each year as a result of domestic violence, including time lost to diminished performance as a result of abuse, the abuser’s harassing communications and visits at the victim’s place of work, time spent preparing for and attending court, and health reasons. Forbes recently calculated that employers pay $8.3 billion annually to cover the healthcare costs, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and security costs directly attributable to domestic violence.

    Domestic violence can and will spill over into the Louisiana workplace and expose employers to legal risks. This monthly series will discuss the various ways in which domestic violence enters the workplace, including employment discrimination, workplace violence, stalking, victim protection laws, insurance portability, leave policies, and considerations in hiring aggressors. Next month’s article will explore what employers need to know about implementing a workplace violence policy that adequately addresses domestic violence.