Fighting domestic violence in the workplace - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Fighting domestic violence in the workplace

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Teacher Karen Thomas was one of thousands of workplace women across the country looking for a "safe haven" anywhere but home.

She is one of the victims of domestic violence who've come to view where they work as a "lifeline" in more ways than just a paycheck.

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"They're planning this themselves. They're planning to get away. They just don't know how. They don't have the resources and they don't have the friends and they don't have the support. That's where you play a powerful role by supporting that escape route for them," says MPD Lt. Doreen Shelton.

The roles the workplace and employers play in recognizing when their employees are struggling with domestic violence and what they can do to be proactive, was the focus of a workshop held at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis on Thursday. The theme "Violence at Home. Victims at Work" brought out representatives from government, business and law enforcement who informed attendees of their legal rights if they become involved in helping employees suffering from domestic abuse. The recurring message was to be observant of the tell-tale "signs" of a person who might be suffering in silence.

 "When they're coming in with a black eye or they've had a change in attendance or their tardiness. Talk to those employees. Talk to the employee. Find out what's going on. See if you can get that employee to tell you what's happening," says attorney Robin Hutton.

The Tennessee Workplace Action allows employers to go in and take judicial action through injunction to keep domestic abusers away from their victims at work. Some companies, such as ServiceMaster, that was scene of the workplace murder of employee Laura Rowberry by her husband in April, have increased security measures both inside and outside their facilities. However, the cold reality is victims can't just stay at work out of fear. But, help can still be a phone call away.

"The information that's on these little palm cards and if you print that out and fold it up. It almost disappears into someone's pocket or purse. They can hide it. They can keep it. They can pull it out when they need it and it can really save lives," says Deborah Clubb with the Memphis Area Women's Council.

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