In conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, OPM has posted a reminder to agencies of guidance it issued in 2013 on federal workplace policies. Under that guidance:
Workplace flexibilities are to be made available to an employee when the employee and/or the employee’s family member(s) are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. To the greatest extent possible, agencies are to work in collaboration with the employee to provide leave and/or other workplace flexibilities to help the employee remain safe and maintain his or her work performance.
All possible options may be considered for an employee in this situation, including annual or sick leave, advanced leave of either type, use of compensatory time off, and various forms of unpaid leave. When the need for time off is foreseeable, an employee must provide reasonable advance notice to the agency. Employees are not required to provide personal details in their requests for leave. However, employees are required to provide enough information in their leave requests so their supervisors know which type of leave is appropriate. An agency is not required to ask for verification or proof of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; it may accept the employee’s credible statement as verification.
An employee on an approved flexible work schedule may adjust his or her work schedule, such as reporting times and work hours, to accommodate events driven by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking in accordance with agency internal policies and/or collective bargaining agreements.
Employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking may react in a manner, such as absenteeism, that ordinarily could result in disciplinary action. In such cases, once the supervisor becomes aware of the issues, the victimized employee is to be referred to the resources within the agency for support and assistance. Agencies are to work to make sure that workplace policies do not re-victimize victims to the extent possible, while maintaining appropriate workplace standards.
To take adverse action against employees who commit off-duty misconduct, there must be a proven “nexus” between the specific misconduct of the employee and the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties. That is, when taking adverse action against an employee, an agency must be able to show that there is a clear and direct relationship between the grounds for the adverse action and the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties or some other legitimate governmental interest promoting the “efficiency of the service.”
Workplace support, including access to supportive services, appropriate responses from supervisors, and referrals to culturally competent victim service providers for immediate and on-going trauma-informed care and support, are be offered to employees who are victims.