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The Domestic Violence Division

Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Message to Employers from the State's Attorney

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office is cooperating with hundreds of other organizations, employers and unions to help the victims of domestic violence.

If you have an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, you can take steps to increase safety for the victim and your workplace. This brochure is meant to help you do that.

Our Office's Domestic Violence Division prosecutes domestic violence cases to hold abusers accountable for their actions while working to keep victims safe.

Our staff can provide information about the court process as well as support and referral services. Take the time to plan safety. Always report abuse to the police.

Anita Alvarez
Cook County State's Attorney's Office

Work to End Domestic Violence

Every year, hundreds of employers, organizations and unions participate by placing articles about abuse in newsletters, holding brown bag lunches, hosting community volunteer efforts, and distributing educational materials.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaults and controlling behavior, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks and economic control, that adults and adolescents use against their intimate partners or family members. Domestic violence can be lethal. It takes place in all religions, ages, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds and income levels. Most adult victims are women.

Domestic Violence:

It's a Business Issue

Domestic Violence is an important business issue that cannot be ignored. The workplace is where many victims spend at least eight hours a day. It's an ideal place to get help. Domestic abuse affects employee health, well-being and productivity. When employers face domestic violence as it affects the workplace, they have the power to save money - and save lives.

What is Domestic Violence in the Workplace?

Domestic violence doesn't always stay home. It can follow victims to work. It can spill over into the workplace when women are harassed by threatening phone calls, absent because of injuries or less productive because of stress. With one out of every three American women reporting physical abuse by an intimate partner at some point, it is certain that any mid- to large-sized company has an employee struggling with domestic violence.

What Can Employers Do?

Supervisors are often among the first people in the workplace to become aware that an employee is facing domestic violence. If you think an employee may be abused, the next step is to make referrals to either an in-house resource, such as an Employee Assistance Program, or to external services, such as a community domestic violence program.

Signs of Abuse

Does your employee or co-worker:

  • have unexplained bruises or explanations that don't seem to fit the injuries?
  • seem distracted or have trouble concentrating?
  • miss work often?
  • receive repeated, upsetting phone calls during the day?
  • appear anxious, upset or depressed?
  • fluctuate in the quality of her work for no apparent reason?

    Talking About Abuse

    If you think an employee may be abused, you may want to talk with that employee.

    1. Let the employee know what you have observed:
    "I've noticed the bruises you had last week and you look upset and worried today."

    2. 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."

    3. Make a statement of support:
    "No one deserves to be hit by someone else."

    4. If an employee voluntarily discloses domestic violence abuse let the employee know you are concerned. Keep the information confidential, telling only those who need to know, such as security. Adjust the employee's schedule or workload for greater safety.

    The Workplace Safety Plan

    Assist employees to develop a workplace and personal safety plan to reduce the risk of a violent situation on the job.

    Advise an employee dealing with abuse to:

  • Obtain an order of protection and make sure that it is current and on hand at all times.
  • Include the address of the workplace on the order
  • Provide a copy of the order of protection and a photograph of the abuser to the reception area, police, supervisor, Human Resources, Legal Department and Security.
  • Save threatening e-mail or voicemail messages. They may be useful for legal proceedings.
  • Review the safety of parking arrangements. Have Building Security escort employee to car.
  • Have calls screened, transfer harassing calls to Security, and remove employee's name and number from automated phone directories.
  • Relocate employee's work space to a secure area.
  • Rotate work schedule, workplace and assignments.


    For more information, please contact:
    The Cook County State's Attorney's Office
    Domestic Violence Division
    312.325.9220

    Cook County Commission on Women's Issues
    312/603-1104

    National Workplace Resource Center on Domestic Violence
    415/252-8900
Domestic Violence Division
555 W. Harrison
Chicago, IL 60607
312.325.9220
Fax: 312.325.9270