SHRM Testifies Before Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety

For Immediate Release

Apr 17, 2007
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SHRM Highlights Three Areas of Concern with the SAFE Act

(Alexandria, VA, April 17, 2007) - Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) member and attorney Sue Willman testified today before the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety on domestic violence in the workplace.

A survivor of domestic violence, Ms. Willman's testimony focused on employers' efforts to respond to workplace violence. She presented the views of SHRM on the Security and Financial Empowerment Act—or SAFE Act—which would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide 30 days of leave for issues relating to domestic violence.

"SHRM strongly believes that every employee is entitled to a safe work environment," said Willman. "HR professionals play a critical role by supporting policies that limit the occurrence of violent incidents."

SHRM's testimony highlighted three areas of concern with the Act. These include:

  • Coordination—SHRM believes that SAFE Act provisions should be coordinated with other federal and state employment laws, in particular the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such coordination will prevent confusion for both employers and employees.
  • Leave Benefits—Since many employers already offer paid leave; a federal mandate requiring leave for domestic violence could have the opposite effect of its intention. It is likely that some employers would be forced to reduce existing employee benefits in order to comply with the new federal standard. In this way, any federal initiative that limits employer flexibility tends to limit choices for employees.
  • Direct Threat—SHRM believes that there needs to be a balance between the interests of a victim and the welfare of all other employees who, due to no fault of their own, often become unintentional victims of domestic violence situations. Under the SAFE Act, employers are required to protect the victim's welfare even at the risk of other employees' safety. Unlike the ADA, the SAFE Act includes no "direct threat" defense when the domestic violence poses a significant risk of substantial harm to the safety or health of the victim or other employees.

Although the purpose of the SAFE Act is laudable, SHRM believes the legislation as constructed presents challenges for employers and employees.

To review SHRM's testimony, visit the SHRM Government Affairs Web page at http://www.shrm.org/government/ . For more questions or interviews to discuss SHRM's workplace and legislative priorities, please contact SHRM Media Affairs at (703) 535-6012 or (703) 535-6356.

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