Irv Kooris, with The Home Depot, Shares his thoughts on Domestic Violence in the Workplace

2013-8.22 Irv Photo 1

Six years ago Irv attended a Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) conference. He was so impressed with the conference that he has been part of the PADV team ever since. At this year’s Domestic Violence in the Workplace Conference (DVIW), Irv is playing an integral role on the program planning committee as well as using his network to make sure that the community knows about the October DVIW Conference and what the PADV hopes to accomplish.

Irv is currently the director of associate services for Home Depot, which includes the men’s health management department and the company’s work life program, Care Solutions for Life.

“Care Solutions for Life is a benefit for all our associates and their household members to deal with a variety of issues, from a domestic violence situation, a child having trouble in school, written resources for pregnancy, or loss of a loved one. We provide face-to-face counseling for a certain number of sessions with no cost to our associates.”

Irv understands the effects domestic violence has on its victims, and DVIW provides an opportunity for people to understand how it should be dealt with in the workplace.

“Whether it is sexual abuse, depression, or other causes that we know exist in our world today, they are seldom discussed openly in the work place. So the idea of having a domestic violence conference that is really about the work place is unique.”

Although Irv has dealt with issues of domestic violence in the past, he admits that when he first attended the conference six years ago, it opened his eyes to new ways domestic or intimate partner violence can be handled in the workplace.

The conference will address the business side of domestic violence as well as examine the human factor.

“Whether it’s a high-level executive or a sales associate at the store, the problem doesn’t go away when you walk into work. For example, if someone is dealing with a domestic violence situation at home, it constitutes a potential danger at work, not only to themselves but to other associates and customers.”

“The goal should be to continue to engage businesses and engage the workplace because that is where a majority of people spend time.” Irv says the conference is not intended to turn the workplace into a treatment facility for domestic abuse. “It’s important that there is an awareness of what to look for, what to do and what resources are available to help the employee and the family.”

Irv Kooris is the Director of Associate Services which is part of the Medical & Health Management at The Home Depot. Kooris is on this year’s DVIW planning committee. 

Linda S. Boatright’s Views on Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Linda_B

For years Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) has dedicated a conference to highlighting ways to deal with domestic violence in the workplace. This October will be no exception as they bring business professionals together to discuss these issues.

Linda has been the director of employee and labor relations at Kaiser Permanente for the past five years. It was four years ago that she attended her first Domestic Violence in the Workplace (DVIW) conference, and she has made it a point to continue to share what she learned with others at her company.

“Looking at the stats, one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In my company women represent more than 50-60 percent of the work force, and for that reason we felt very compelled to make sure that our managers, as well as the employees, know Kaiser is a safe haven that they can talk about domestic violence, and the mangers are equipped with the skills to recognize it.”

Working closely with employees, Linda knows the importance of having a work environment that people are comfortable in. “I think domestic violence is that little dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about. I am very committed to being an agent that says let’s change that, let’s give people an opportunity to talk about it.”

Having attended, and even chaired the DVIW in the past, Linda continues to learn and share information with others. Despite the fact that she has experience handling domestic violence situations with employees, the DVIW opened her eyes to issues she had not considered.

“One thing I learned is that domestic violence, like rape, is a power disorder; and many times it’s generational. Intimate partner abuse is clearly an issue too. Victims most often feel they are guilty of something. I want people to know that while it is an issue, there is also a solution, there’s also help. I cannot talk enough about the work that PADV has done in the Fulton and Gwinnett County areas.”

Linda says there are many reasons companies should attend the conference. “I believe that when we don’t talk about things, they become issues for people. These issues then find their way into the workplace. You may see increased employee absence, or see productivity problems. Kaiser is there to support employees and make sure that they have healthy lifestyles and healthy environments. I feel empowered to say let’s turn it around and make domestic abuse something that people feel comfortable acknowledging so they can get help.”

Linda Boatright is Director, Employee & Labor Relations HR, for the Georgia Region of Kaiser Permanente. Boatright has worked with Kaiser Permanente for five years, chaired the DVIW Conference in 2012, and served in an advisory capacity for the 2013 and 2014 conference. 

Julie C. Smith

For the past seven years, Verizon has been a supporter of the Domestic Violence in the Workplace Conference (DVIW). Julie C. Smith, vice president of state government affairs and external affairs, believes PADV and Verizon share a valuable relationship as both entities have similar goals.

“As a company, Verizon has a long history of supporting domestic violence awareness and prevention,” Smith said. “It was extremely logical to partner with such a respected organization. PADV does so much to help raise awareness in the community and gain support for those impacted by domestic violence.”

Since 2000, Verizon and the Verizon Foundation has provided more than $65 million in grants to domestic violence prevention organizations, women’s shelters, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officials and various male mentoring initiatives. Prior to joining Verizon, Smith had little knowledge about domestic violence/intimate partner violence’s (DV/IPV) impact on the business world. She currently serves as this year’s DVIW program chair.

“No matter how many times I talk to a domestic violence advocate or participate in a conference, I leave with more knowledge and passion for helping solve this issue,” Smith explained.

As a business woman, Smith knows the importance of executives learning from their peers. She believes testimonials from various sized companies and their leaders will drive the message home to DVIW’s professional audience.

“What makes this conference unique is how we are really focused on this from a business perspective,” Smith said. “I’m excited about our expert panelists who will be able to really engage in dialogue. Our tag for this year is ‘Domestic violence IS your business’. Statistically, one out of every four women is subjected to domestic violence, in reported cases. Therefore, every workplace has the potential to be effected by this. The way domestic violence can affect costs, productivity and morale makes it very important for businesses to care. It should be part of who you are as an employer. We hope every organization leaves this conference with a plan if one has yet to be established.”

According to Smith, implementation of company-wide programs, like Verizon’s, should not be seen as a difficult task.

“Continue to educate,” Smith advised. “Come up with a plan and follow through. The DVIW conference will give attendees the tools to get started. Most importantly, you must be persistent. Simply mentioning it once is not enough.  Start the conversation with employees and keep it going.”

To find out more information or to register for the 2013 Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference, please visit http://padv.org/events/domestic-violence-in-the-workplace/.

Irv Kooris

Irv Kooris

Irv Kooris

Irv Kooris, Director of Associate Services at The Home Depot, serves as the 2013 Event Chairman for Domestic Violence in the Workplace (DVIW) conference. Kooris first began his experience with PADV five years ago as a conference participant. He was extremely impressed with the organization’s mission.

Kooris believes the second annual DVIW conference is a crucial investment amongst business leaders to educate employees and create a safe work environment. Oftentimes, employees are a company’s most valuable resource as their performance can determine profitability.

“Businesses cannot claim domestic violence as a private issue,” Kooris explained. “Employees are the basis of every business, making it the company’s responsibility to take action. The workplace brings everyone together everyday making it a great place to educate employees. The cost of not being prepared to take action is far more expensive than the cost of bringing awareness to employees.”

Domestic violence and intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) has been estimated to cost American employers up to $13 billion, each year. Survivors lose approximately eight million days of paid work, annually. After revealing the multiple ways DV/IPV can affect a business, Kooris believes it will ignite executives to face the issue.

“The challenge isn’t knowing domestic violence is important, but it’s having people understand its importance from a human stand point, risk management stand point and a business stand point,” Kooris said.

The Home Depot, host site of this year’s DVIW conference, is setting an example for businesses of all sizes by establishing company wide DV/IPV awareness and resources.

“Our human resource department and their partners are consistently strengthening resources as they begin to understand the policies and utilize communication vehicles.”

After the DVIW conference, The Home Depot will continue to proactively educate employees, maintain a good relationship with the human resources department and customize a domestic violence policy specific to handling victims within their company.

“I believe it is important to have the right players at the table so when these situations arrive, we aren’t scratching our heads,” Kooris explained. “We will instantly know what to do internally.”

To find out more information or to register for the 2013 Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference, please visit http://padv.org/events/domestic-violence-in-the-workplace/.

DVIW Conference: an HR Manager Shares Her Reality

It’s hard for me to believe that men really hit women. I know it shouldn’t be hard to
believe – I’ve known too many victims, read too many stories, seen too many ugly
results. But still, at my core, I find it hard to believe.

But it’s true. And sometimes women hit men. And sometimes they – men and women –
do much more. And sometimes the psychological threat of a beating is just as effective
as the kick or the punch.

I’m an HR leader — by work and by passion. And in all my years of work, safety has
been a critical part of my role. I’ve thought of the workplace as “my place” – where I
was responsible for the well-being of every one of my employees. And that is what
connected me to PADV — Partnership Against Domestic Violence. Its vision is to create
a community free of domestic violence.

I wanted – and still do want – a workplace free of violence and the threat of violence.
And often that threat comes from home and into work.

Today I’m working with PADV and SHRM Atlanta to equip HR folks in the metro area
with the knowledge, the tools and the support to make sure the team at “their place”
is safe and secure. I want HR to know the signs and the steps; I want co-workers to
know how to offer meaningful support; I want victims to know where to get help; I want
supervisors to be informed; I want businesses to have a game plan. I want us to realize
that just because we want to believe “Oh, it doesn’t happen here,” the reality is that we
know that it does happen here. It happens everywhere. Every day.

It’s about building a web of trust, about having a plan and a response. But more
importantly, it’s about knowing the reality.

Every year approximately 18,700 violent workplace events are committed by an intimate
partner of the victim at the workplace.

As an HR leader, all too often I wake in the night, playing over in my head a
conversation, a concern — wondering if I have missed a signal that meant employees
were in danger.

It’s time to be informed. It’s time to be involved. If you are HR in metro Atlanta, check
out http://www.padv.org. The organization’s annual Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Conference takes place on October 10 at The Home Depot Corporate headquarters.

And if you are HR anywhere, join the conversation and the expectation that HR has an
important role to play. According to the CDC, one in four women is – at least once in her
life – a victim of domestic violence, emphasis on violence. You can make a difference in
her life. Be aware. Be informed. Take action.

DVIW: A Co-Worker Shares Her Story of the Day Violence Came to Her Workplace

“He said he’d kill me.”

My experience with domestic violence in the workplace still seems very surreal even though it happened over two years ago.

When do you know someone is crying out for help?  And when you realized the subtle signs are more like a hair-raising shriek, what do you do?  It was a mundane hump day when my co-worker asked me to lunch.  There was nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that she asked me out to lunch.  We had invited her out on several occasions, but to no avail, so I figured she was just not the “lunch with the girls” type.  But this particular Wednesday she practically twisted my arm, even offering to treat.

The conversation to the restaurant was typical: updates on work, venting about managers, the usual.  I noticed that she kept checking her phone, so I asked if she needed to take a call.  Her reply was no, so I just kept chatting.

Mid-way through lunch, her phone was still buzzing away.  So much so, that it’s garnering some attention from the table next to us as it has vibrated its way across the table right next to the glass salt shaker and is making quite the rattling noise.  So, as I reach to push it away from the salt shaker, I hear her screech “Oh God, please don’t pick it up.  He said he’d kill me!!”

That’s not love. It’s abuse.

Blank stare. That was my initial reaction to her revelation.  I put my fork down on the table and tried to muster some words.  Once my shock dissipates, I asked, “Stacey, are you alright?”  Then the tears began to flow.  As she begins to explain how her boyfriend of nine months has forbidden her to go out to lunch with anybody, she follows it up with how much he loves her.  Then she says he only gets this mad when she “disobeys” him and continues to say things will get better when they can start a family together.  Next she decides to clarify that he just loves her so much he wants her all to himself.

This is the point when I can’t take another word, and I blurt out, “Stacey, if a man says he’ll kill you, believe him.  That’s not love. It’s abuse. ” It appeared that the word ‘abuse’ conjured up an image in her mind as she began to shake her head violently.

“No, no, no, he’s never really hit me or anything.  He just gets angry and threatens and stuff – – – you know.”

I respond:  “No, I don’t know.  And there’s no such thing as REALLY being hit.  Either he has hit you or he hasn’t.  Which one is it?”  Then the tears begin again.  As if all of this wasn’t shocking enough, she really throws me for a loop when she says, “Please don’t tell anyone.  You’re the only one I trust and I’m afraid if he finds out I said something, he really might kill me.” ….

WHAT!!!!!

What in the world do I do with that???  Don’t tell anyone!  Are you kidding me?  Here I am looking at this text book battered woman and I’m not supposed to say anything.  What in the world do I do with that????

Learn more, so you can do more.

By this time, lunch hour has turned into lunch hour and a half.  I promise my silence and I ask for a promise in return.  She promises that she will talk to a professional about what is going on in her relationship, and though I don’t believe her, I feel bound by my promise and fearful that any other action could cause a re-action of death for her.

She had 23 missed calls in an hour and a half.  He called almost every three minutes, and I had promised to keep it to myself.  To this day I don’t know if I did the right thing or not.  This is why discussions of domestic violence in the workplace are important.  How do you know when or if you will be placed in a position when you will have to make a decision that may place someone else’s health or life at risk?  Though I kept my promise, it didn’t keep the violence from escalating.  It happened at work, and as he had his hands around her neck another co-worker witnessed it and reported it.  I’ll never know if my promise of silence helped or hurt her, but I did sit in on a ‘Violence in the Workplace Lunch & Learn’ in hopes that I might be better informed and prepared to handle such a situation if it ever presented itself again.

Learn more, so you can do more. Attend the Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference on October 10 to learn more about what you can do to recognize the signs of domestic violence in your workplace, and create an environment that is safe for all employees. Visit padv.org for more information.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace: an HR Manager Perspective

 

Is Domestic Violence Even Real?

Call me naïve or call me shallow but…domestic violence, REALLY?  It only happens to other people, right?  Honestly I don’t know anyone who has been a victim, so is this real?  I wasn’t really sure.

So when did it become a reality to me?  It happened the day my company participated in volunteer work at a PADV shelter.  Behind the gated walls and barred windows, I should have noticed that those who resided there were escaping a different kind of prison – the grasp that holds them to their abuser.  But I still didn’t quite get it.

Throughout the day, I saw the women and their children come and go.  Some of the women left to go to work and some were doing research on the computers. I saw the rooms where they were lived and the kitchen/dining room where they prepared food and ate.  I am sure they wondered why we were there and I started to wonder why they were there – what had happened to them? How did they get there?  I rarely saw any of them speaking that day – was it out of fear, was it out of shame?

A Stroller and a Trash Bag

At the end of day our volunteers were tired and I was about the last person to leave – THEN IT HAPPENED…a police car drove into their gated facility. I was trying to respect the rider’s privacy so I went on about my business and never saw who came out of the vehicle.  It was only when the police officer returned to retrieve a baby stroller and a single black trash bag.  And I thought – this IS REAL and to this day, I get chill bumps over WHAT I DIDN’T SEE.

See the Signs

Frequent injuries and bruising may be visible indicators; however, most signs of domestic violence are unseen.  Some of the more common signs are:

  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Not Knowing What One Wants or How One Feels
  • Blaming Others for Everything

As a Human Resources manager, I have seen that an employee afflicted by domestic violence may exhibit a combination of these warning signs:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Tardiness/leaving early
  • Frequent personal phone calls
  • Performance decline
  • Change in personality
  • Withdrawal from co-workers

Domestic violence affecting an employee may take the form of a slacker or a trouble maker.  Leaders need to have stronger awareness and broader knowledge to see beyond an employee’s action or inaction.  Encourage your company to support the Domestic Violence in the Workplace Conference on October 10th.

Yes, we may not see it but IT IS THERE.  Take time to learn the signs of Domestic Violence.

October 2012 Domestic Violence in the Workplace Speaker Spotlight: Michelle W. Johnson

Michelle W. Johnson, a partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, will speak as part of the expert legal panel at the 2012 Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference. Johnson practices in Atlanta in the areas of labor and employment law, business litigation and appellate work. She represents management in lawsuits and administrative proceedings arising out of all aspects of the employment relationship. She has significant experience representing employers in class actions filed under Title VII and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Johnson has tried cases before the National Labor Relations Board and in state and federal courts throughout Georgia, and has appeared before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits.Johnson is a member of the State Bar of Georgia (Labor and Employment Section) and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, and the U.S. District Courts for the Middle and Northern Districts of Georgia. She is a member of the American Bar Association (Labor and Employment and Litigation Sections), and the Atlanta Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law Section). Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. From 2004-2011 she also served on the Board of Partnership Against Domestic Violence. We look forward to having Michelle Johnson speak as part of the expert legal panel at PADV’s 2012 Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference, which will also include Diane Prucino, a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend. Seats for the October 10 conference are filling up quickly!

If you have not signed up for the conference, click HERE to guarantee your spot!

DVIW Conference: It’s About One in Four

As a woman, getting involved with PADV seemed like a no-brainer.  Working to end the crime of intimate partner violence? Absolutely. Empower domestic violence survivors?  Count me in.  I would be honored to join in that mission…

And then I read the reports and heard the statistics.  I was…shocked…to find that:

  • On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
  • A recent survey found that more than 60,000 victims nationwide are served by calling crisis lines every day. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources, almost 9,000 women do not get their service needs met daily.
  • 15.5 million children in the United States live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year.
  • One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. By comparison, one of the most widely-publicized health issue affecting women – breast cancer – affects one in eight women.

One in Four: The Reality

Quite honestly, I found these numbers unbelievable.  One in four women experience domestic violence in her lifetime?! How could something be so prevalent and still so many people are seemingly unaware?

One in Four: My Secret

As I read over the data, I thought about PADV, its mission and the importance of programs such as the Domestic Violence in the Workplace conference.  I think about all of those women.  I think about all of those children.  I think about the desperate desire they must feel to get help. I think about the fear and shame.  I think about my dark secret…  I am one of those victims of domestic violence.

I have a very fractured memory of my childhood.  But I do have memories of my dad being angry with my mother.  Very angry.  I recall that my mother always ‘bruised easily.’  I remember my mother teaching me how to call 911 if she ever called out to me to do so.  I recollect how, the one time I did, when the police arrived she told them that I must have been mistaken and everything was alright.  I remember my mother being a very sad person.  As a child, I experienced sadness, confusion and fear.  As a 40-something-year-old woman, it has become so clear what was going on.

In the rural south in the 1970s, domestic violence shelters did not yet exist. But what if my mother had felt free to ask for help?  With her friends and family in a different state and many in a different country, she had little or no support in our hometown.  What if her employer had a culture of awareness and made it clear that she would be supported, and offered assistance for her and her children?  What if her employer had been able to put her in touch with an organization that could provide shelter, counseling and legal services?

One in Four: What If?

I am sure “one in four women” has a different meaning to different people.  From where I am sitting now, what it means to me is that one in four women are going to work every day seemingly just like everyone else.  But inside, each one of them is wondering how she, and perhaps her children, will get through another day,  fearing the next time her partner shows up at work “just to say, ‘Hi’.”  Will that put her or her co-workers in danger?  Who can she tell?  Who can she trust?  Who will not judge?

One in Four: DVIW Conference

I am so thankful for what PADV’s Domestic Violence in the Workplace strives to accomplish.  Practically, it’s about protecting a company’s investment in its human capital.  The conference will educate companies on what steps they can take to recognize domestic violence in the workplace and what actions they can and should take.  It will present to companies real life examples of how domestic violence affects their bottom line.  But, personally, it’s about saving that woman and her children. In the end, it’s that “one in four.”

Why the “Domestic Violence in the Workplace” Conferenceis important to me.

Peripheral at best, my awareness of Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) began over 10 years ago through my employer, a long-time supporter of its mission and programs; however, my personal engagement with PADV increased last year after learning of a friend’s employment with the organization.

I am historically known as a “roll up your sleeves and dig deep behind the scenes” type of worker once I’ve connected with a mission and am grateful I created space to share my time and talent with PADV because the last seven months have broadened my perception of the cause, broadened my perception of PADV’s reach and elevated my awareness of how intimate partner violence appears in daily life.

The Cause

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines Domestic Violence (DV) as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power or control over an intimate partner”. Admittedly, many of us may connect late actress Farrah Fawcett’s portrayal of a battered woman in the television movie “The Burning Bed” as the classic example of DV, but it can also include emotional abuse and even stalking.

DV has always been of concern for women’s organizations and was addressed on a national level in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, but President Barack Obama’s mandate for the nation’s largest employer to be the leader in enacting practices in response to domestic violence in the workplace in his April 18, 2012, Memorandum Establishing Policies for AddressingDomestic Violence in the Federal Workplace returns the cause to the forefront, hopefully setting the stage for legislative policy on state and local levels and–for those not ahead of the curve–policy creation in the establishments we respectively call “work”.

PADV and its Reach

Established in 1975, PADV is the largest nonprofit DV organization in Georgia and serves Metro Atlanta with aconfidential 24-hour crisis hotline and confidential safe houses in Fulton and Gwinnett Counties. The Gwinnett facility, the only state-certified DV shelter in its county, is currently undergoing new construction and, among its many features, will serve 50% more women and children in crisis than its current location.

PADV also offers legal advocacy, community education and outreach training and programming for teens and adults and annually serves more than 18,000 women and children.

I Believe We’ve Met but Not Been Properly Introduced

DV is somewhat of an illusion to the outsider.

At work, it looks like absence, slack performance, disability or the person who has this very romantic significant other who checks in numerous times per day. In our friendship circle, like the person who can never enjoy time with us after work or on the weekends because he/or she must always go home or the girl who wears unusually layered cosmetics.

Three months ago, it looked like two police officers standing on my next-door neighbor’s driveway for hours insisting “everything’s fine” when their mere presence spoke to the contrary.

More than thirty years ago, it looked like my aunt’s husband: the charming man who absolutely adored me–and I him– and had committed heinous actsagainst her that were not even known to my parents until his death.

The reality is we often don’t realize who or what we’ve encountered until we replay images, scenarios and conversations in retrospective.

PADV Can Help You Make the Connection Going Forward

DV has direct victims and victims of proximity–neighbors, family members, employers, co-workers–and is a matter of public health, workplace productivity and workplace safety. Don’t consider establishing a workplace policy in retrospective. Take the initiative and register for the 2012 Domestic Violence in the Workplace Conference today.

Resource Links

White House memo: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012domesticviolence_mem_rel.pdf 

Workplace violence resource: www.workplacesrespond.org

Employer cost calculator: https://www2.texashealth.org/dv/