another ask the readers: when an employee is being abused at home

Here’s another “ask the readers” question, this one of a very different nature. A reader writes:

I am hoping you might have some advice about an issue my boyfriend has. He manages a small team at work, and he suspects that one of his employees is being physically abused by his wife. My first instinct is that my boyfriend should report this to someone, like HR, but he is unsure. He is concerned that it is his responsibility to be sure that the abuse is really taking place before reporting it, and that he will lose the employee’s trust if he does report it. He is also not sure a report would be taken seriously, since it involves a woman abusing a man instead of the reverse. What are a manager’s responsibilities in a situation like this? What do you think he should do? He does not work in an industry which has mandatory reporting laws.

If the employer has an EAP, that’s the place to start. But if not … what do you guys think?

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. K*

    Having been in an abusive relationship in the past, I would have been very uncomfortable, embarrassed, and ashamed if my supervisor had attempted to discuss my situation with me or if my supervisor had reported it to someone else, even within the company.

    The thing about abusive relationships is that they sometimes don’t seem abusive to the parties involved. I, for example, rationalized my partner’s behavior “Oh he just has a terrible temper, so I should try harder to avoid provoking him,” or “He just gets mean when he’s been drinking (or doing drugs), so I will go hang out with my mom tonight,” and so on.

    I didn’t realize until several months after the relationship ended that it had been, in fact, abusive.

    Perhaps the employee is in a similar situation and has not yet come to terms with defining the relationship as abusive. It is probable that the employee would become defensive if confronted–even delicately–about the nature of his relationship with his possibly abusive wife.

    What would have helped me is knowing that I was able to confide in someone, a co-worker, a friend, a therapist, etc. when I was ready to define my relationship as abusive and to determine the next steps.

    That would be my advice to the manager: show by your actions and your words that you can be someone’s confidant, be trustworthy, be supportive. (Many survivors of abuse end the abusive relationship briefly, only to return to it and then repeat this cycle many times. It is at this point that previously supportive family members, friends, and co-workers can become frustrated that their efforts to help have not worked and then they sometimes stop being supportive.)

    Some good resources for those being abused by their partners, and those wishing to help them, is the website and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at

    1. OP*

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think my boyfriend is in a good position to help, because in this case his employee actually approached him to confide in him about the abuse. Do you have any thoughts on the best way for him to broach the subject again? Should he even try, or wait for the employee to bring it up again?

      1. Natalie*

        Perhaps your boyfriend could do some legwork for his co-worker and find the names and numbers of some organizations that can help him. It can sometimes be harder for abused men to find help as a lot of domestic violence work grew out of the feminist movement. And for what I hope are obvious reasons, most DV shelters don’t take male clients. They do tend to have hotlines, though, which are typically open to all.

  2. KG*

    Under mandatory reporting laws, any suspected abuse is to be reported directly to the relevant agency, NOT to a supervisor. Your boyfriend is not covered by this, but as a precedent it seems like going to HR would be a bad idea– this is a personal matter not occurring at work, and HR isn’t going to be able to do anything that your boyfriend personally can’t.

    It seems like it ultimately boils down to Adult A suspecting that Adult B is being abused, and how does Adult A want to proceed. The murky part is one cannot approach a coworker the same way one would approach a friend (if that route was even desired), but I don’t know that bringing other non-essential parties into the situation would help at all.

    1. Anonymous*

      “Under mandatory reporting laws, any suspected abuse is to be reported directly to the relevant agency, NOT to a supervisor. ”

      Please quote the non-existent laws for this.

  3. first time commenter*

    The writer didn’t say if the employee’s work performance has gotten worse recently. Whether or not work performance is an issue, the manager should tell the employee his concerns privately. If the employee doesn’t want to go into it, the manager can then remind him of other confidential EAP services that are available to him and leave it at that.
    If it was a female employee, I don’t think the question of addressing the situation would be coming up. Don’t let gender be a factor in making this decision.

  4. Jamie*

    To whom would he report it?

    I know if you suspect abuse of a child you should report it, because there are agencies which can investigate. How does this work with adults? If you report it to the police, do they launch investigations outside of speaking with the suspected victim? Hopefully someone here will know how this applies to adults.

    I think the best thing to do is for the supervisor to be very clear about what he wishes to accomplish here, and make sure the means to that end won’t cause more harm than good.

    If he’s wrong, or even if he’s right, this has the potential to be very damaging to the suspected victim.

    I do think this needs to be handled differently than you would if you suspected a child of being abused.

  5. Anonymous*

    I remember reading a story a few years ago where a woman was helped in prosecuting her husband for abuse because her supervisor had been quietly noting down days when she was late, bruises she saw, etc, on a desk calendar for a couple of years, which became evidence in the case when the abused lady’s husband was on trial. Apparently the supervisor hadn’t said she was doing it at first, but just kept track as something to do. Your husband should do the same, and also recommend the EAP if there is one.

    1. OP*

      Other states may be different, but California (where we live) actually mandates that health care providers report evidence of domestic abuse for any patient, not just minors. There are other more targeted mandatory reporting laws regarding child abuse and abuse of the elderly.

      1. Lynda*

        Yes, there are different reporting requirements for child victims than for adult victims. In this case, I don’t believe it would be a mandated reporting situation. It would be nice to offer silent support, but probably not an effective approach to start a conversation out of nowhere about domestic violence. Unless the victim is ready to discuss the situation, he/she is probably not going to be receptive to discussions initiated by anyone else.

  6. Marie*

    Outing myself here as a former victim of domestic abuse here. At the job I got that allowed me to leave my abuser, there was another woman on staff who was obviously being abused — much worse than me — and it was widely known. People ignored it when she spontaneously disclosed terrible things her husband had done, or when she came in with a bruise she was trying to cover. I assumed this meant that my workplace found that kind of thing embarrassing or unacceptable, and I kept my mouth shut, afraid to talk about my life, or ask for reasonable assistance.

    I didn’t know there was a long history with that other coworker. Staff had talked to her about the abuse before, and done some damn near heroic things to try to help her leave, and she just kept ignoring them and going back. So eventually, they stopped trying, but it wasn’t out of lack of love or a desire to help. But what I saw was a woman so obviously abused that to ignore it required a complete lack of any kind of care, so I assumed that would extend to me.

    When I left that job, I told my boss about all this, and I recommended putting some policies on the books that dealt with domestic abuse, as it would have made me feel like I could have “come out” and still been safe. An example of something like that is here:

    A lot of the stuff in that policy is sort of obvious, and you’d assume that everybody would already be on the same page without needing this written down, but to me, at that time, it would have said, “This is a workplace issue and it is valid to bring up and will be dealt with in a professional way.” When you’re abused, your brain gets really twisted up. Your abuser tells you that you’re worthless and other people will hurt you or hate you. All the things that other, more reasonable people “know” without having to be told — that most people are okay, that it’s not normal to be treated the way you’re being treated — you don’t know anymore. So you also don’t know that you can go to HR and ask for something very simple, like a schedule change so your abuser doesn’t know when you are and aren’t at work, and they’ll probably work it out with you. Having a policy on the books that says yes, you can do just that and it’s okay, can really help counteract the fearsome assumptions you start making about the world when you’ve been abused.

    Here are some examples of how a policy would have helped me. My desk in that office sat right by the entrance, and my back was to the front door. Every time the door opened, I was on high alert, afraid it was my abuser coming to get me. On days when we had a lot of visitors, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have a panic attack. There was an empty office in the back, and I know now my boss would’ve been 100% okay with me asking to take it, but at the time, I was so twisted up with the abuse that I never could have imagined asking for anything I didn’t feel I deserved. If there had been a written policy that it was appropriate to ask for accommodations, that admitting my problem wasn’t a shameful terrible thing, I might have gathered up my courage to ask.

    For a time, my ex was showing up around my workplace — I’d spot him across the street or driving by in his car when I arrived or left work. Obviously, this was terrifying — it was meant to be. I wanted to pass around a picture of him, so building staff wouldn’t let him in when I occasionally worked weekends or evenings, and I wanted to notify staff so if they saw me leaving the premises with him, they might stop and ask if I was all right, giving me a chance to escape. I also wanted to ask if I could be escorted to my car. But I didn’t do any of those things, because I was terrified they would lead to me losing my job, or being a laughingstock, or being treated as a troublemaker. My ex frequently told people that I was crazy, or on drugs, and got them to ignore things I told them that he did that way. So I was afraid that if I told my coworkers that I was being stalked, it would make me look crazier, and they wouldn’t call the police if he came and dragged me away “for my own good.”

    If there had been policies on the book that made it clear that HR knew that domestic violence existed, knew that it affected work, and had their doors open to discuss it, I might have been able to come forward with some of these things. Instead, I assumed that the worst things possible would happen to me if I ever talked about it — abuse makes you think that way.

    So, I don’t think your boyfriend can do anything for his coworker directly. But encouraging HR to develop some specific policies regarding violence in the workplace might let the coworker know that work is a safe space, and gives the best chance possible (in my opinion) of his seeking help there, if he’s inclined to seek help.

    Other things your boyfriend can do, though, is check his language in the office, and call out others when they say something over the line. Until you’ve gone through something like this, you don’t realize quite how many wife-beating jokes show up casually, from otherwise nice people. Or, in this guy’s case, imagine how exciting it might have been for him to hear all the jokes people made about Tiger Wood’s wife beating him with a golf club.

    Beyond that, just general victim-blaming tones can creep into a lot of everyday conversation — just recently, a coworker of mine made an offhand remark that a woman suing a football player for sexual harassment was “just in it for the money.” Now, I can just brush that comment off as my coworker being misogynistic, but back then, it would have affected me a lot — my ex frequently accused me of making things up to get attention or money, and I would have filed away my coworker as somebody who would believe that, so not somebody I could ever trust or ask for help.

    Those comments can go a long way towards keeping a victim quiet. If work is one of the few places you can go to be competent and feel like a normal human being, the last thing you want to do is reveal yourself to be one of those victims that other people joke about, or think are liars, or think deserve what they got.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Marie, this is so powerful — thank you for writing it here. I don’t think anyone could read this without permanently thinking about these issues a bit differently. I’d love to use it as its own post at some point, if that’s okay with you.

      1. Marie*

        Aw, thanks.

        If you want to use this just as is, that’s fine. I could also clean it up some or add more details, if you like. Let me know!

    2. Meredith*

      This is an amazing post. I am also a former victim of relationship abuse. Luckily(?) mine took place in a school environment where we were both students and the administration did an amazing job of handling it. However, had I been in the workplace, I don’t know what I would have done. Thank you for sharing your story. There’s such a stigma attached and it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not alone.

    3. Kim Stiens*

      I’m very sorry about what you went through, but I’m super glad you’ve thought it through in such a way as to help others… I never would have thought to include any kind of domestic violence clause in the employee handbook, but it’s definitely something I’ll consider now!

  7. Marie*

    Oh, a few more things are coming to mind:

    First, your boyfriend should read up on domestic violence himself. Education is always helpful here, and it will keep him from putting his foot in his mouth in some really common ways. For example, the first thing most people say is, “Why doesn’t s/he just leave?” It seems like an obvious question. It’s hard to answer, because there are a million reasons, and there are all so diverse and individual that there’s no simple response. When you’re in that situation, what hits your ears is, “If you’re still there, you must like/deserve/be lying about it, because anybody else would ‘just’ leave.”

    I strongly recommend The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. Not for the domestic violence chapter, which is actually pretty awful and victim-blamey, but the rest of the book is quite wonderful, and he does cover some stuff specifically about dealing with possible violence in the workplace, something that might come up if he leaves his abuser. Abusers have a need to keep control of their victims, and for 1/3rd of their day, they know exactly where their victim will be. So it’s very likely that an abuser who isn’t willing to let go will show up at the workplace, and a workplace should be prepared to deal with that.

    Second, a lot of domestic violence shelters will have little cards with their info on them. I keep one visible by my desk, as a small coded way of saying, “This is a safe place.” But, also, I know when people are ready to maybe think about leaving, they can get stymied by trying to figure out who to call or what to do (most might be afraid to use their computers at home, or might not have a lot of access to using the phone privately). I keep that card there as an easily accessible number to anybody who might need it.

    Third, at my workplace, we have frequent trainings on a variety of topics related to our work. And we have domestic violence trainings, too. So the staff here have a better-than-average idea of what domestic violence looks like, how it affects victims, yadda yadda, so they’re slightly less likely to say things like, “That doesn’t sound like abuse. Are you exaggerating?” Of course, this only works if you have or are willing to start having frequent trainings, because otherwise it’s too obviously targeted.

    One thing the trainer for that session does is start the day with a number for a domestic violence shelter on the board. He asks everybody to write it down. Then he explains that if he just left it on the board and said, “Write it down if you want,” the people who really need it won’t, because they’ll be afraid that somebody will see them and know what’s happening with them. Basically, that’s what you want to do, in as many ways as possible: direct any training, assistance, help, compassion, education that you want to give this person to everybody. Everybody could use it, everybody might need it someday, but if you direct it only at the potential victim, they will be so embarrassed and terrified that they will refuse.

  8. Joey*

    I’ve had this happen before and I got her the contact info for a specific person at the police department that dealt with domestic violence.

  9. Sheri G*

    I am an HR professional, so my situation is a little different. When employees came to me with a concern that their co-worker was being abused, it did not seem right to approach the employee. For all I knew, this could be hearsay.

    What I did do was update our Domestic Violence posters in the facility which has a hotline phone number. Then, I called the phone number for some advise. They connected me with some local organizations, and I was able to obtain literature designed to insert into payroll envelopes. Then, I worked with the payroll department, to ensure the literature was distributed to ALL employees.

    We also left the literature in locations that could be taken, without being noticed by others. Ultimately, I don’t know the outcome for the individual, but I felt I did as much as I could, without embarrassment to the employee and her co-workers.

    Perhaps the writer’s boyfriend can discuss his concerns with HR, or whomever plays that role in the company. There is no need to mention the individual person, just a concern about an employee or co-worker. If he does a little research, he go to that meeting armed with the tools for the HR manager to distribute.

    Hope this is helpful.
    – Sheri G

  10. OP*

    AaM, thank you so much for posting my question! And thank you, everyone who has responded, especially those of you who shared your own experiences with abuse. I know all of this advice will be incredibly helpful as my boyfriend attempts to help his employee.

    I will add one bit of clarifying information, which is that the employee actually approached my boyfriend and confided in him about the abuse, although somewhat vaguely. He ended the converstation by saying “I’m sorry, this isn’t your problem, don’t worry about it,” but it seems like he trusts my boyfriend enough that my boyfriend is in a good position to provide help and support.

  11. Anonymous*

    Has anyone had a successful experience with an EAP program? I’ve tried using these services twice.

    First time I called, woman said they didn’t offer telephonic counseling under my plan (even though it said it right in my benefits brochure), gave me the name and number of a local counselor and hung up.

    Second time, (under a different company) was able to speak with a counselor who spent about 10 minutes “setting up my account info” and then about another 10 going through a really stupid questionnaire. I got so frustrated with the whole process that I hung up.

    Seriously, people “in crisis” do not want to spend time rating their feelings about their social lives, life choices, self-esteem, etc on a scale from 1 to 10. They want help with what’s bothering them!

    1. fposte*

      Our plan has gotten really good. I had a lackluster experience with it years ago when basically it was triage for substance abusers and I needed counseling with a workmate, but now it’s really broad and gets you in pretty quick, and is astonishingly low bureaucracy.

  12. Kim Stiens*

    Oh, yeah, in addition to what others are saying, I think it’s worth noting that, statistically, the number of domestic violence cases where the woman abuses the man far outnumber the “traditional” model we see so much about, with an abusive husband. Gender should definitely not play a role in whether or not you decide to take action!

    1. Natalie*

      While I agree with your ultimate point, it is simply not true that the statistics regarding who perpetrates more domestic violence are solid. There are a number of complicating factors to doing this sort of research and the issue is not remotely close to settled.

      One of the only non-contested conclusions is that (in the US) women are far more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner than men are.

  13. Anonymous*

    Since the employee has brought it up, the OP’s boyfriend has an “in” to at least offer resources unsolicited, maybe by sending him an e-mail with something like “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” I recommend -it specifically discusses domestic violence against men and misconceptions about it that keep men from getting help. I found out through an unfortunate situation with an acquaintance that when a male victim of domestic violence snaps and strikes back, the legal repercussions on him are the same as if he’s been beating her for years, so it’s important that he get help now. 1-888-7helpline also advertises as a helpline for men and women both, as many hotlines turn men away.

  14. GeekChic*

    OP, you’ve received some great advice already (and some powerful stories). I’d just like to add that calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−SAFE (7233)) was helpful for me when I suspected that a friend (who was male) might be in an abusive situation.

    They were able to give solid, concrete advice around what to do and what not to do. They also have a website.

    Good luck to your boyfriend and his employee.

  15. Anonymous*

    As a manager, I had a situation involving domestic violence. It’s not exactly the same situation, but there are certain boundaries, apparently. Both the abuser and the victim worked for the same company in different programs, the victim was one of my direct reports. I had to ask HR how to handle this because restraining orders came into play and it really threw my whole department into a bit of turmoil. But my understanding of it from HR was that really, unless it was happening on work property, we could not get involved, legally. We followed the restraining order, which stated that he could not come into the office where she worked, and just worked around it (until he was terminated because he was arrested, and his arrest was grounds for termination). Beyond that our hands were really tied, so I’m not sure if your boyfriend even really has any recourse here other than trying to be supportive to his employee.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Do you mean the workplace can’t get involved in any legal aspect of the situation, or that there’s a legal problem in the workplace’s having anything to do with the situation? I’m not sure either is actually true (your department was involved in the legalities merely by handling the restraining orders, for one), but I especially am challenging the second. It’s not like there’s a law forbidding a supervisor from even bringing up the subject. I can see that a company’s lawyers may forbid action for fear of liability, especially in a case like you describe, but that’s not the same thing.

      1. Anonymous*

        Basically we were told that unless the abuse was happening at work we couldn’t do anything beyond be supportive to the victim. Reporting it to our supervisors did nothing because they couldn’t do anything because was hearsay, all I was allowed to do was encourage the victim to go to the police herself. It sucked because we all knew it was happening and we still had to treat the abuser with the respect due a coworker, but we had no place to really report him. Once the restraining order came in then we had to honor that, but I was more just saying there was no way for US to report it legally, it had to be the victim, and we were ordered to absolutely stay out of it (to the point where I approved the victim time off to go to to court and press charges and I was OVERRULED by MY manager, which made me furious). The company may have gone too far for fear of liability, I don’t know.

  16. Janet Lahlou*

    When a woman leaves an abuser, it is the most dangerous period of the relationship. Managers need to be educated about this and understand how to offer support and help appropriately. Whatever you do, don’t tell her “leave now”. The leaving process takes much planning and support. Chances are good that the abuser will not know where she lives, but he will know where she works. This brings the issue squarely into the office – and your managers need to be trained to recognize and respond accordingly. Here are two links to help: – Check out the video “Silent Storm” in the lower right corner.

  17. Mike C.*

    I’d just like to thank AaM for posting this question and for all the commenter that posted their personal stories. This isn’t an issue that has ever come up on my radar before and I’m glad to have my eyes opened about the issue.

    While I hope never to encounter this situation, at least I now have a few resources to better understand the situation. Thanks!

  18. Anonymous*

    For a few months, I was dealing with a difficult situation at home. I ended up confiding some of the details to my boss because at the time I didn’t have many friends (had moved across the country for a job and knew no one except work people) and it was beginning to affect my work performance and attendance. Perhaps my boss got too involved and blurred the lines between supervisor and supervisee but I was often having trouble getting to work on time because of the situation. After I confided this, my boss would call to check in with me, not so much to say “where the heck are you, you’re late” but instead “are you okay”. Things have calmed down a lot in the last few years but even now if I’m late for a previously unannounced reason my boss will want to make sure I’m okay. And that actually means a lot to me that someone notices when things might be awry.

    So maybe your boyfriend can keep the lines of communication open, be alert and aware to danger signs and check in more frequently.

  19. EngineerGirl*

    We were required to watch silent storm. One of our employees left her abusive relationship. Her SO came into work (where he knew where she was) and shot the place up. She was killed. She had just left the relationship.

    Any HR person that says “don’t get involved” should be fired. The abuser many time will involve the workplace whether they want it or not.

  20. Catherine*

    I have worked and volunteered for a DV agency in the past–please don’t take me as an expert, but I’ve received more training than the average person.

    Like a previous poster, I wonder who exactly your boyfriend would report the abuse to? If he actually witnesses something illegal, then he should feel empowered to call the police, but otherwise, I don’t think they are going to be able to do anything. (I do agree with the suggestion to keep a record of what he has seen.) What I think is most important, however, is not to appear to be going either behind the employee’s back or over his head. I don’t think that any “reporting” should be done without first having a direct conversation with the employee. Abusers work by doing everything they can to disempower their victims, so everything done to help must be with an eye to empowering the victim. That doesn’t necessarily mean never doing anything the the victim doesn’t want or going against your own conscience, but it does mean being open about those decisions.

    What I would encourage your boyfriend to do is to contact a DV hotline for education and advice. There are experts available who answer exactly these kinds of questions.

    Secondly, work with others in your office to come up with a safety plan for dangerous people in the office. EngineerGirl’s example is one of the worst outcomes that can happen with how DV tends to enter a workplace–abusers can target the victim at work because they know that’s where the victim will be. But there are all kinds of situations that might bring a dangerous person to your workplace, and it’s just generally responsible to be prepared.

    Thirdly, I’ve already touched on it, but I think that your boyfriend should have a direct, explicitly confidential conversation with the employee. The employee may not be willing to open up, but your boyfriend should directly tell him that he will not lose his job over this situation and that he is willing to help if possible. If the employee *does* admit a need for help, a first step might be working on a personal safety plan (for example, a code word that means call 911), which a DV agency can give advice on.

  21. Catherine*

    Same Catherine as just above–I’ve had a couple more thoughts.

    I agree with what was said above that the employee with the current problem shouldn’t be singled out, and I said that the manager shouldn’t appear to be going above the employee’s head. BUT I want to elaborate that it IS the manager’s responsibility to keep the workplace as safe as possible, and I think that measures “for all employees” can be an empowering, responsible approach or a cowardly, ducking approach, depending on how it’s done.

    For example:

    Pat, an employee, is an abusive relationship with Robin, not an employee. Robin calls Pat at work and says some nasty things, causing Pat distress and distraction. OK, so most of what I said in previous post was about abuse that occurs *outside* of work. But in this case, the manager has a problem that, viewed properly, is a workplace problem.

    One way to solve the problem would be to ban all employees from personal phone calls at work. On the surface, this approach is fair and confidential. In reality, office gossip has already relayed what prompted the new policy, and now employees who can never check in with their babysitters are blaming Pat for being in a bad relationship and furthermore not keeping it at home. Pat is even more mortified and knows that work is not a safe place to get help.

    The braver, more responsible thing to do is let everyone know that Robin is not allowed to call the workplace to talk to *anyone* because of nasty or threatening behavior to an employee. Pat will probably be embarrassed, and should be warned in advance. But this sets the precedent (to Pat and to everyone) that it’s the *abuser’s* behavior that has caused the problem, and it can create general morale that no one is allowed to abuse employees while they are at work. It sets appropriate boundaries. In short, it addresses the real problem. The manager can also work on policies that any customers who are insulting and threatening are to be referred directly to the manager (and perhaps informed that their business is unwelcome if they cannot be civil–a friend tells me that it does wonders for morale among her employees when she occasionally reprimands customers who mistreat her employees).

    What I am getting at is that “for all employees” trainings, policies, or whatever, can be terrible if they are a coded way to punish or to let individuals know that they have a problem to solve. But they can be wonderful if they are part of real efforts to improve the workplace.

  22. Anonymous*

    The other thing your boyfriend might do is go out of his way to make sure that the employee knows that it is ok to do some things on the computer, look into a divorce attorney, research housing, counseling, or other options. These are things that likely can’t be done at home on any kind of a computer that the spouse would have access too. So knowing that he wouldn’t be punished for doing it at work would be very helpful. And mandating some rules, no we never put spouses/so’s thru when they are working and create some language so that everyone says the same thing and knows how to deal with it. And then your boyfriend should be ready to let those irate spouses (there may be more than just this man’s) be passed up to him the first few times and explain that it is a new company policy and hold firm for everyone.

  23. Ashley*

    I see from the comments that this is occuring in California (I think), and I am located in a different state (Washington), but just wanted to add something.

    In Washington, there is actually a state leave law specifically for domestic violence. If you aren’t sure if your state has something like this, it can be worth it to talk to HR and find out what your options are. They may not be able/allowed to get involved, but they may be required to provide you with protected leave to handle issues related to your situation. If you are in a situation where you want to present the employee with options, it doesn’t hurt to ask what is available.

  24. Damien*

    I’d like to say something about this as a male survivor of domestic violence.

    I’ve lost all my jobs because of my abusive ex-wife’s behavior, and it wasn’t until after I’d lost my last job over it that I realized why I’d lost that, and all my other jobs.

    If you are a manager, supervisor or employer and you suspect a male employee is being abused, the best thing you can do is just that – be aware of it. Give the guy some leeway, especially if he has proven to be a good employee. If he’s late and looks tired or upset, let him know he’s valued at work. If he looks like he’s having trouble keeping things together, let him know quietly and discreetly – without bringing up the topic of abuse – that he’s welcome to take some time off without putting his job in jeopardy. Just be very patient, because he does not need the extra stress of getting a hard time from his employer when he gets nothing but a hard time at home despite wanting to be a good husband/boyfriend and employee.

    I had none of this. Things would be different for me if I had. Things are RADICALLY different for abused men than for abused women. Think “abused woman” 60+ years ago and double it. A guy has to all but go underground to get support and help compared to the modern woman. THAT is the number-one thing a concerned employer should keep in mind.

  25. LR*

    Truth is, career women who work out of the home are more likely to suffer domestic violence, especially if the husband is traditional and conservative in his beliefs about women. And this happens to creative women as well.

    And considering I live in Atlanta, GA, which is like a small community, where domestic violence against women is very high, due to old-fashioned, Deep Southern Christian attitudes about gender and even race, I have a fiance who won’t even let me work with people where I live at all. He’s very possessive, controlling, and territorial like most guys in my area, especially if they are devoutly Christian or Catholic. They want their girls to be perfectly obedient and trustworthy to them without failure. That means no interacting with other guys nor being desirable to them as well. Guys here in Atlanta are very harsh.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s not a normal or healthy way of interacting with someone in a relationship, and I don’t think it can be attributed to regional differences!

    2. Anonymous*

      Honey, I am a Southern married lady and you need to rethink your relationship. I am very familiar with Atlanta, Georgia. What you are describing is not true. Not every Southern community thinks like this. This is just your guy. My husband is not Southern, but we have lived in this area before. It is true, many Southern women are traditional but what you are describing is horrible. I am very family-oriented and really feel worried a little about you. Listen to me, this is not the normal southern way. There are many career women from the South.

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