Domestic violence has been making news headlines lately, mainly because of the high-profile cases of the National Football League players Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and others. This publicity has drawn attention to the ambiguity surrounding the NFL’s established policy on domestic violence and other off-the-field transgressions by players.
Factors to Consider
The NFL exists in its own, somewhat unique atmosphere. The fact that the NFL has a complicated (and apparently rather flexible) policy on domestic violence does not, in itself, mean that all employers should have one. Here are some factors an employer should consider before implementing a domestic violence policy:
- In general, employers can legally defend disciplining or restricting an employee’s off-duty conduct if a genuine business-related reason exists.
- Employers can generally legally defend disciplining employees for inappropriate and/or illegal off-duty conduct that violates stated company policies or performance standards, has a negative impact on other workers’ morale or performance, or damages the employer’s reputation in the market or the general public.
- Employers can legally defend disciplining employees for off-duty conduct when necessary to comply with federal or state laws or to minimize their risk of legal liability.
- Despite the above, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been aggressively protecting employees’ off-duty behavior that can be construed as “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act.
- Typically, stories differ and even lies can abound in domestic violence cases. A policy that allows the employer to take action before a legal conviction occurs is inherently risky. A subsequent defamation suit is one of those risks.
- Domestic violence victims as well as perpetrators may have Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) protections. Frontline supervisors must be well-trained in dealing with those victims on the job.
- Incidents of domestic violence may not come to your attention when they occur, or at all. Violence at home could mean accompanied violence at work. Updating your background checks each year can reveal incidents of domestic violence that you would otherwise not find out about.
When Planning, Always Seek Professional Advice
The long and short of it is that you can establish a policy against domestic violence for your business. However, before implementing any policy, you should first discuss it with an attorney. Without a doubt, training your employees on the dangers of domestic violence is appropriate whether or not you install a formal policy.