Domestic violence affects thousands of New York families and extends beyond the family into all areas of society, including the workplace. This has never been more evident than in the case of a devastating domestic violence murder of a State employee in 2019, which gave rise to an investigation by the New York State Inspector General that revealed deficiencies in State policy and practice. These findings, made public in April of 2022, led the Governor to issue an Executive Order mandating trained domestic violence liaisons in every State agency, dissemination of information and resources statewide, and a collaborative approach between agencies to identify and support those suffering from domestic violence. This Executive Order – affecting more than 100,000 employees and families across the State – requires all State agencies to comply before January 2023.
Pursuant to a commitment made at the time of the investigation, the Inspector General is pleased to report that as of July 20, 2022, more than five months in advance of the deadline, New York’s executive branch agencies are well on their way to compliance with the terms of the Executive Order. Where the Inspector General has identified gaps in compliance, the relevant agency has been notified. In partnership with the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (“OPDV”) the Inspector General hopes that this will make New York State service safer for all.
“The scores of people who serve New York State deserve the dignity and protection of a workplace that recognizes and addresses the trauma of domestic abuse,” says State Inspector General Lucy Lang. “Today, on the 174th anniversary of the first Women’s Rights Convention, standing at Seneca Falls where the women of upstate New York gathered to protest the violence that accompanied the building of the Erie Canal and demand their right to vote, I am proud that New York is a state committed to building a safer and more free future.”
The survey, a copy of which is appended hereto, was distributed to ninety agencies under OIG Jurisdiction via email with a link to complete the questions electronically. Agencies were also provided with a portal through which copies of their respective Domestic Violence in the Workplace policies could be uploaded. Of the ninety surveyed agencies, OIG received responses from eighty-five agencies. There was also an opportunity for responding agencies to comment.
Of the responsive agencies, the following statistical findings were observed.
Overall, more than 96% of the responding agencies indicated that they had some form of Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policy (“DVWP”) in effect at the time of the survey, though roughly 10% of those are following the policy of a hosting agency or utilizing the OPDV Model Policy without agency specific modifications. Of the three agencies that do not have a DVWP, two of them have, at present, five or fewer employees.
Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order, and prior Executive Orders, all agencies must, regardless of size, promulgate a Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policy and appoint a Domestic Violence Agency Liaison (“DVAL”). The Inspector General will follow up directly with both non-responsive agencies and those not presently under compliance to ensure any present non-compliance is rectified.
Despite the fact that the Domestic Violence Agency Liaisons were not formally mandated for each agency until Governor Hochul’s April 28, 2022 Executive Order, virtually every reporting agency indicates that they already have one in place, well in advance of the January 1, 2023 deadline. Of these liaisons, close to 90% have received training from OPDV in the past, and agencies with newer liaisons that have not yet been trained expressed an eagerness for such training to commence.
It is also clear that agencies are conscious of the importance of publicizing the existence of, and contact information for, their liaisons. When asked how they share this information with their staff, a significant number of agencies indicated that information regarding the DVAL is provided during new employee orientation, a majority asserted that the information had been emailed to all staff, included in handbooks or posted on agency intranet sites, and many agencies cited the posting of the information on posters in common areas. There are also a number of agencies who require attestations from their employees indicating that they have reviewed and are familiar with the agency’s DVWP.
The Inspector General was also pleased to see that the individuals selected by their respective agencies are most frequently members of their agency’s human resources unit or a member of executive staff, as these liaisons are both likely to have regular contact with a broad range of agency staff and are well situated to understand the importance and spirit of a DVWP.
The Inspector General is also encouraged by the fact that more than half of the responding agencies are already offering annual training to staff regarding domestic violence issues. Of those that are not, nearly all indicated that they are aware of the Governor’s mandate that going forward all covered employees will be mandated to participate in an annual Gender-Based Violence and the Workplace training developed by OPDV and made available on the Statewide Learning Management System. Moreover, multiple agencies indicated in the comments that they wanted to host additional on-site training related to domestic violence for their employees through OPDV. As one noted, in some places “[f]ocus on domestic violence only tends to happen in October for Domestic Violence Awareness month. It would be beneficial for OPDV to send Domestic Violence Liaisons materials each month that can be shared with staff to continue awareness throughout the year.”
- It is the view of the Inspector General that while technically compliant with state mandates, it is preferable that all subsidiary agencies have their own Domestic Violence Agency Liaison, even if their human resources functions are largely hosted by their parent agency or the Office of Employee Relations. Having a liaison in daily proximity to co-workers ensures that the spirit of the policy will be most efficiently addressed.
- Training on an agency’s Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policy should be included as part of all new employee onboarding.
- All agency staff should be required to review their agency’s Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policy annually and submit certifications advising that they understand its contents and are aware of the identity of the agency’s liaison.
- Agencies should put in place mechanisms to ensure that all covered employees complete the annual Gender-Based Violence and the Workplace training to be developed by OPDV and offered via the Statewide Learning Management System
- All agency Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policies should articulate the process for promptly notifying all agency employees of any change in the identity of the agency’s liaison.