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. 

A Story of Unrecognized Warning Signs

Sketchworks answers questions after performance

I felt I was well informed on the issue of domestic violence in the workplace. I knew the statistics. I knew the facts. My eyes were opened, however, to the insidiousness of intimate partner violence as I watched Sketchworks’ performance of “If Only You Knew.” Here is a synopsis:

The scene opens with Jane’s plea, “John, please. I said I was sorry. Just come to bed. Jane’s husband is furiously ransacking the bedroom in search of something he has lost. “You do things just to piss me off, don’t you?” he asks. John is mad tonight because his steak wasn’t prepared the way he likes. The alarm clock reads 11:00 p.m. Jane needs to get up early in the morning for work.

John finds what he is looking for – his gun. He threateningly waves it in the air, accusing his wife of being “too busy with [her] ‘work’ to take care of [her] husband.” In his violent rage, John rips up an important stack of Jane’s work documents. The scene ends with Jane in tears, crumpled on the floor, picking up the tiny shreds of her project. It is, now, 4 in the morning.

The next morning, Jane is late for work. Again. In the break room, her coworkers complain about Jane’s frequent tardiness and poor work performance. Samantha, the project manager, notes, “Why does her husband have to drop her off and pick her up all the time? If getting a ride was making you late this much, wouldn’t you just drive yourself? …Doesn’t she seem more and more scattered, lately?”

Tom, a sympathetic coworker, defends her. “We all have a lot of stuff going on. Work, home, it’s hard to keep it all balanced. She’ll come around,” he explains.

But Samantha isn’t convinced, “I can’t help but think there’s something going on…”

Jane finally arrives unprepared for an important deadline. Remember, John destroyed her documents the night before. Jane devises a convincing cover story, but her company still loses a valuable account. The second scene closes as Jane bolts out of a meeting to take a call from her husband.

The third and final scene begins in the break room with a group of Jane’s coworkers. It’s 9:30, and, again, Jane is late. Tom confesses that Jane has confided a secret to him: She is being abused by her husband. “There is good news,” Tom says, “she’s leaving John.”

Samantha admits, “Honestly, I’ve suspected as much. I’ve been on the verge of asking her a dozen times… but I was wary of overstepping my bounds.” Another coworker is not as understanding, saying that she is fed up with Jane’s poor performance.

Just then, Tom’s phone rings. “It’s Jane,” he says, relieved.

The group anxiously awaits the end of Tom’s call to hear the news. “Let me guess, she’s not coming in today,” gripes a coworker.

“Ok, thank you,” Tom stumbles and hangs up, “That was the police. They found my number in her phone as the last number she dialed before…”

“Before what?” they ask.

“Before… she died,” Tom says, stunned. Shocked, they scan each others’ faces for answers, but there are none. The lights fade.

This story of the loss of one woman’s life at the hand of her abusive partner is fictional, but, sadly, it portrays the grim reality of domestic violence homicides. On average, more than 3 women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States.*

“If Only You Knew” was written and performed by Sketchworks, an original sketch comedy troupe, as part of an innovative training at PADV’s 10th annual “When Domestic Violence Goes to Work” conference on April 28, 2011.

Now, suppose for a moment, you were one of the Jane’s coworkers in this story? Would you have recognized the warning signs?

  • Absenteeism
  • Tardiness/leaving early
  • Frequent personal phone calls
  • Performance decline
  • Unexplained injuries, bruises or markings
  • Change in personality
  • Withdraw from coworkers
  • Inappropriate use of clothing or make-up, like wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck in summer

If you were unsure about how you and your coworkers/employees would respond to the above scenario, consider inviting PADV to provide a Domestic Violence in the Workplace training. Email us at info@padv.org to set up an appointment today.

To learn more about Sketchwork’s regular comedy shows and customized corporate productions, visit http://www.sketchworkscomedy.com/.

*Catalano, Shannan. 2007. Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Brooklyn C.