If I have information about domestic violence in a co-worker’s private life can I tell human resources without getting into trouble?

Posted  11-12-2014

Ann Kiernan replies:

You don’t say what the information is, or why you want to tell HR, so I cannot give a complete answer. But if, for instance, you know for a fact that a coworker has been assaulted by his/her spouse and has an order of protection against him/her, I think it would be a good idea to tell HR, so they can get a copy of the order and alert your building security to bar the assaulter from the workplace. We know that about 1/3 of all workplace violence incidents are spillovers of domestic violence problems.

But if your information is not definite, I would not recommend spreading it around. Rather, you could go to the coworker and say something like, “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Is everything OK? Is there something I can help you with?” And then listen. You could also suggest to your coworker that he/she call you company’s EAP provider and get some confidential professional advice.

Good luck.

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.