What can you do if you suspect a coworker or employee is suffering from a domestic violence situation?

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ST. GEORGE — For someone experiencing domestic violence, receiving paid leave for work to seek a safe place to stay, obtain counseling or get medical care can relieve some financial burdens.

While this is something recently enacted in New Zealand, such isn’t the case for Utah. However, there are still resources available that employers can provide to their employees if they suspect or have confirmed the employee is experiencing domestic violence.

At the end of July, members of Parliament in New Zealand approved a bill, which will go into effect April 2019, allowing victims of domestic violence to receive paid leave. However, receiving paid leave in the U.S. for situations such as domestic violence varies by state. Although quite a few states – including California, Oregon, Washington and Minnesota – have paid sick leave laws, Utah doesn’t.

According to Economic Security for Survivors, more than eight states have enacted paid sick and safe leave policies since 2007. Under safe leave provisions, victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault would be allowed paid time off for situations like relocating oneself and one’s family, obtaining legal services and receiving medical attention for injuries.

The state of Utah does have the Family and Medical Leave Act, but FMLA leave can only be requested through the following circumstances:

  • Birth of a child.
  • Placement in your home of a child for adoption or foster care.
  • Your own serious health condition.
  • Care for a spouse, child or parent with serious health condition.
  • Qualifying exigency.
  • Service member care leave.

Domestic violence in the work place

In a work environment, not all employees will come forward to their employers about being in a domestic violence situation; however, experts from the Dove Center say there are signs of abuse employers and coworkers should be on the lookout for.

Madonna Melton, director of operations and shelter services, said employers should look for physical signs of abuse, although that’s not the only form of domestic violence.

“If you have an employee who is coming to work in the middle of summer and wearing long sleeves or a turtle neck, that could be a sign,” she said, “because it’s not something someone would typically wear in the summer.”

The following are other possible signs of an employee suffering from domestic violence:

  • If someone mentions to a coworker that they can’t be late going home because their significant other is tracking mileage.
  • If someone mentions that their significant other is tracking their spending.
  • If someone make excuses for their significant other’s abusive behavior when a coworker points it out.
  • If someone visibly changes their personality when their abuser is around.

What employers can do to help

Brenda Evans, director of outreach services at the Dove Center, said every domestic violence case is different, and everyone’s response to trauma is going to be different.

“Oftentimes, the survivors don’t know that they’re having a reaction to trauma,” Evans said.

Part of what the Dove Center teaches its clients is what trauma looks like, as well as coping mechanisms and integrating them back into work or family situations in a safe manner.


Read more: Dove Center sees staff, budget double, enabling it to add services, help more survivors


It’s really important for employers to provide options and around the parameters of their policies,” Evans said.

It’s crucial that employers support the victim’s decisions, she said, and not tell them what they should do.

“One of the things we really work on is giving options and then supporting decisions that the victims makes because we don’t want to take the place of their abuser,” Melton said.

Here are other ways to support those in a domestic violence situation, according to the National Domestic Violence Helpline website:

  • Don’t tell them to leave or criticize them for staying in the relationship.
  • Acknowledge their strength and support them.
  • Listen to and believe what they tell you.
  • Reassure that the abuse is not their fault.

The Dove Center can provide education and brochures for employers interested in creating safe place conversations. To reach the Dove Center about education opportunities, call 435-628-1204 or leave a message on their website. Employers may also provide the Dove Center’s 24-hour helpline to their employees, which is 435-628-0458.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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