Congress recently passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, or gun reform legislation, that President Biden has now signed into law. Portions of this legislation may help reduce workplace violence that involves domestic abusers who pursue their partners at their workplaces.
The gun reform legislation contains a provision that closes what is commonly known as the “boyfriend loophole.” Previously, federal law prohibited people convicted of domestic abuse from buying or owning guns, but only if they were married, lived with, or had a child with the abuse victim. Unfortunately, this law left the “boyfriend loophole” in allowing a domestic abuser who had merely dated an abuse victim to buy or own a gun. Closing the “loophole” could help reduce gun violence between domestic abusers and their victims and, by extension, workplace violence.
Experts differ on whether gun reform legislation will have any practical impact on the incidence of workplace violence. On the one hand, Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law professor Jody Madeira states that “nearly one-fourth of workplace violence incidents are linked to personal relationships, with women far more likely to be victimized than men.” As a result, many states have already barred any individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes from possessing guns.
On the other hand, Steve Albrecht, an author and consultant on workplace and school violence prevention, doubts that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will make much difference in the rates of workplace violence. Albrecht explains that perpetrators of workplace violence “aren’t deterred by gun possession laws, the need for a permitting process, or concealed carry regulations.”
Despite their differing opinions on the legislation, the experts agree that employers can take steps to further protect their employees from workplace violence that stems from domestic abuse. These steps include:
- Provide protection and support for employees who disclose domestic abuse to coworkers or managers, including pursuing emergency protection orders against abusers when available;
- Review policies on having guns at work based on state laws;
- Develop a team approach to address workplace violence caused by domestic abusers;
- Ensure that HR professionals familiarize themselves with local resources for domestic violence victims and publicize the availability of those resources for employees;
- Implement a confidential system for the formal reporting of domestic abuse to avoid any safety risks.
By taking proactive steps to protect their workforce, employers can better reduce the risk of workplace violence. In addition, these steps are more likely to be effective than safety measures implemented in response to violence that has already occurred.