Domestic violence affecting the workplace?

May 5, 2010 8:33:51 PM PDT
Officials say more often than not, women who are killed on the job are killed by an intimate partner who followed them to work. They say that type of violence impacts nearly everyone at the workplace. The most recent incident happened on Tuesday, when a man shot and killed his girlfriend while she was at work at the Duke Health Clinic.

It is not the first business or healthcare facility that has come face to face with domestic violence deaths recently.

The worst act of domestic violence in the workplace in North Carolina was in March 2009.

Police say Robert Stewart entered the Pinelake Nursing Home Facility in Carthage and shot and killed a nurse and several elderly patients as he searched for his estranged wife at her work station.

Domestic violence experts say while co-workers and clients can be killed, they say the perpetrator usually only targets their partner.

As was the case at UNC's Hedrick building in 2004. Despite a restraining order, Randy McKendall parked outside his wife's office waiting for her to arrive.

He shot and killed Shennel McKendall, then himself. Her co-workers say they still remember the incident clearly.

"There were a lot of people who actually saw what happened, people who knew her very well," McKendall's co-worker Darlene Knight said. "It was just horrible to think that something like that could happen in the place you work every day."

"For the weeks and months and even a year, we worked to work through the emotions and the fear in the building," McKendall's co-worker Pattie Moore-Boyette said.

Workplace domestic violence expert and Raleigh author Johnny Lee says other businesses can fall apart.

"I've worked with employers who their business has failed afterwards," Lee said. "The heart of the business left, people end up quitting, people stop coming to the location."

He says it's important for supervisors to reach out to victims and offer them help before it's too late.

"Victims clearly know they're in danger," Lee said. "As horrible as that is, its silver lining in that that's a forewarning. And if they feel like they can trust their employer they can warn them and take action steps."

"I think since this has occurred people are more willing to ask for help to seek out their bosses or people in the system and let them know that they could be at risk," Knight said.

Since then, UNC has what's called a Beacon program to help employees dealing with domestic violence.

The Durham Crisis Center is working with Duke and other businesses in the area to teach them how best to help employees who may be in that kind of situation.

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