Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Massachusetts contacted me the other day to discuss a series of rumors he had heard about one of his female employees being in an abusive relationship with her live-in boyfriend. As the rumors existed, the female employee has made several comments to co-workers that her boyfriend is volatile and short-tempered, often reaching the point of physically beating her. Despite the physical violence, the female employee refuses to leave her boyfriend. Given this condition, several employees have come to the owner beseeching him to take action and hopefully save the female employee from further harm.

Despite the emotional grip of this topic, I urged caution and restraint to the owner. While not trying to be unfeeling, I reminded the owner that his formal role with this employee was only defined by her time at work and that the extent of his control did not extend to her personal life. Nevertheless, I suggested that he initiate a meeting with the employee and discuss this issue if she desired to do so. However, if she chose to avoid the topic, the owner was directed to respect her wishes to protect her privacy and end the meeting.

Searching for a script, I offered some general advice to the owner that he adopt a role of support person, by suggesting available resources to the employee, and not try to fix the problem himself. I recommended that he begin the conversation by being sensitive to the awkward topic, especially since it was based on hearsay.

While not judging the employee, the owner was directed to offer various methods of assistance to the employee including:

  • encouraging the employee to get help through formal as well as informal channels, becoming familiar with state-based legislation (i.e., Massachusetts Domestic Violence Leave Law) and its related protocols;
  • taking voluntary time off from work to address this topic in a way that best suited her (e.g., counseling, family, employee assistance programs, finding another place to live);
  • sharing domestic violence resources (e.g., phone numbers, agencies, Internet materials);
  • informing her of legal protections she can gain from law enforcement;
  • taking documentation of all such abusive events;
  • offering open communication to the employee;
  • not retaliating against the employee for this topic, by maintaining a professional work environment based on performance standards; and most of all;
  • showing respect for her personal life, all the while reminding her that the decision to leave her current relationship is hers alone to make.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.