More than 60 managers and supervisors heard the risks and responses associated with domestic violence in the workplace at the "Violence at Home. Victims at Work." conference on Oct. 24. The conference was organized by the Women's Council and hosted by Baptist Memorial Health Care.
Judy Bookman from Concern EAP described damage
done to employees by domestic violence at home.
Anita Vaughn, former CEO of Baptist Women's Hospital and now a consultant to BMHC, greeted conference-goers at Baptist's Garrett Auditorium.
Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Memphis, congratulated the founding members of the Memphis Employers Alliance against Domestic Violence and thanked all attendees for becoming part of the community effort to help victims and survivors of domestic violence. City leaders including Mayor Jim Strickland are committed to addressing the epidemic of violence that occurs in our homes and personal relationships, Doug said. He described talking with his teen son about how to step up and be part of preventing abuse or assault among his peers. "I expect him to meet that standard," Doug said.
The terror and pain experienced in a violent intimate relationship - and the ways that effects work and co-workers - were shared by Brittany Church, manager of artists and special events for the Orpheum Theatre Group and a Women's Council board member. Her personal story about more than three years of agony, fear and courage captivated the conference audience.
Verizon Wireless HR Business Partner Bonnie Ferguson, from South Central Market headquarters in Dallas, added to the awareness of victims' experience and the danger of this behavior by showing
a video that was funded by Verizon. Bonnie detailed ways that Verizon as a national corporation is sensitive to the needs of individual associates when they need help dealing with destructive relationships
Liability, risks and costs to employers when employees are struggling with violence at home are many and varied, according to the panel of experts at the conference. Mike Ryall, deputy director of the Memphis Police Department, urged everyone to pay attention and watch for people in need of help. MPD is committed to addressing the DV problem and will always respond, Ryall said.
Mike Ryall, deputy director of the Memphis Police Dept., talked about safety risks when domestic violence comes to the workplace. Other panelists were attorney Bruce Kramer, financial services security expert Sheila Bramlitt and Concern EAP's Judy Bookman.
Sheila Bramlitt, financial services security expert, and local attorney Bruce Kramer talked about the safety and security issues and importance of taking steps before violence happens at the workplace, potentially triggering lawsuits and other liabilities. Judy Bookman, LCSW from Baptist's Concern EAP, reviewed the ways colleagues and managers can recognize signs that someone is being battered, and the ways DV impedes work performance, mental health and more.
Employers can respond while preserving security and employee rights and reducing risks and liabilities. A second panel on best practices and responses featured Shayla Purifoy, a Shelby County judicial commissioner who hears Orders of Protection petitions; Donna DiClementi, director of Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program; Kim Heathcott, CEO of Clarion Security; Candace Morgan, managing partner, Memphis Verizon, and Dr. Carol Danehower, associate professor at the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics.
"What is important," Carol said, "is to do something. Do a little - put posters in the bathrooms or info cards in the break room. Or create a written policy that establishes a culture of support and compassion while also protecting the workplace, all employees and the work. Or do something in between those two - but do something."
Shayla recommended an "authorization of agency" to give employers power to keep away persons who are threatening or harassing employees. Kim shared ways private security contractors can witness, report or intervene in related situations. Donna and Candace talked about ways employers can provide support by connecting to EAP counseling and community resources or even relocating employees to another work site to maintain their employment.
All agreed: Our workplaces can be safe spaces where those struggling with violence at home can find advice and support. We needn't wait until the worst happens.