Abstract: The Impact of State Workplace Protections on IPV (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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The Impact of State Workplace Protections on IPV

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Alhambra, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kathryn Showalter, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Katherine Marçal, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Kathryn Maguire-Jack, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Intimate partner violence (IPV) impacts millions of Americans each year. Workplaces may be places of support as well as continued violence for many survivors, and a range of policies offer opportunities to protect survivors. Workplace protections for IPV survivors vary widely across the country, and little empirical evidence guides whether these protections reduce violence exposure. The present study examined two widely implemented state workplace policies – right to leave and right to confidentiality – for survivors of IPV to assess the impacts on future violence exposure.

Methods: Data came from two sources. First, families were selected from the restricted-use files of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, a large longitudinal survey that followed families with children born 1998-2000 in 20 large American cities. The analytic sample was limited to mothers who reported having experienced IPV by the Year 9 interview (N = 1,584). Second, study authors compiled a database of state-level workplace protections for survivors of IPV. Right to leave policies offered survivors the opportunity to take time off of work in order to address issues related to IPV such as seeking orders of protection or obtaining health or mental health services. Right to confidentiality policies prevented supervisors or colleagues from disclosing information about survivors’ circumstances to others in the workplace without permission. Information from the state policy database was incorporated with Fragile Families data such that dichotomous variables indicated whether each family lived in a state that provided either policy protection by the Year 5 interview. Hierarchical linear regressions tested whether mothers who lived in states with right to leave or right to confidentiality policies experienced lower levels of IPV at Year 9.

Results: Results indicated that living in a state with a right to leave policy at Year 5 was not associated with a change in IPV at Year 9. Living in a state with a right to confidentiality policy was associated with a modest reduction in IPV experiences (β = 0.037, p < 0.05). Prior working status (Year 5) was associated with reduced IPV at Year 9, whereas maternal age was associated with a small increase in IPV.

Conclusions and Implications: Results indicated that right to confidentiality – but not leave – workplace policies were associated with reductions in IPV experiences for survivors. Confidentiality policies offer survivors autonomy over their personal information, perhaps reducing stigma or risk of information making its way back to abusers. Survivors may benefit from feeling supported by their ability to control their personal information, thus increasing empowerment to seek additional supports and leave violent relationships. It is possible that leave policies varied too widely across states; analyses did not account for the amount of leave offered, or the process for requesting leave. Nonetheless state-level workplace protections show promise for protecting survivors from ongoing violence. Future analyses should consider additional protections for IPV survivors as well as examine variations in impacts by race, ethnicity, motherhood, and employment sector.