Domestic violence help via the workplace: Wagner recognized for leadership

ILR partnerships spin off training campaigns nationally<br />
Domestic Violence Help Via the Workplace
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Domestic violence goes to work with its victims.


On the job, it surfaces in many forms:

  • Poor performance
  • Constant phone calls from a partner
  • Injuries – mental and physical
  • Tardiness
  • Absenteeism
  • Stalking

It can impact anyone.

KC Wagner of ILR has spent thousands of hours examining domestic violence, adult bullying, how it manifests at work and what supervisors, colleagues and unions can do to help one another.

Wagner is being honored as one of New York state’s most influential leaders in the domestic violence movement.  The “30 Leaders, 30 Years” awards ceremony April 29 in Albany is part of the 30th anniversary conference of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.nyscadv.org).  

Wagner, director of workplace issues at Cornell's ILR Metro Office in New York City, provides training to corporations, unions, non-profit and government organizations.  In addition to 30 years of anti-violence work, she is also an expert in sexual harassment prevention and diversity. 

Fifteen years ago, domestic violence wasn’t discussed in the workplace, according to Wagner.  Today, more and more employers and co-workers acknowledge “we all have a responsibility to keep women safe,” she said.  “This seemingly ‘private matter’ has seen the light of day. Engaging men as allies to take a stand against male violence against women is also key.”

Since the 1990s, Cornell’s joint labor/management partnerships have played a strategic role in awareness and training campaigns that have now taken root in public and private-sector businesses and organizations statewide, she said.  Web sites providing information about domestic violence and the workplace, Wagner said, include www.endabuse.org, www.caepv.org and www.connectnyc.org .

“Cornell University’s role is in capacity building -- with both the workplace and local service providers to develop a comprehensive response, each partner doing what they can do best,” she said.

Wagner’s work extends to teaching workers and trainers how to conduct workplace awareness sessions.  The sessions help people to recognize the many forms of abuse and to refer victims to the help they need.  For example, through technical assistance provided by Cornell and under the umbrella of the Verizon/IBEW/ District 1 Communications Workers of America (CWA) Work Family Committee, thousands of managers, employees and union stewards in New York state have been educated to address domestic violence. 

Wagner recommends acknowledging a colleague, employee or union member’s continued distractedness, bruises or other signs of possible abuse. 

“Say what your see,” Wagner said.  “Say, ‘I’m concerned.  You don’t seem yourself.  I’ve noticed you’ve been coming in late a lot.  There are organizational, union or community resources out there to help you. You are not alone. ”

Simple, non-judgmental outreach can make all the difference, she said.

It’s a first step in raising awareness at the workplace and connecting victims with services, Wagner said.

Without outreach, she adds, many supervisors don’t know what to say or do, co-workers feel helpless and the victim remain isolated, even though an employee’s assistance program, union or agency is ready to help.