Schenectady County

Schenectady adopts domestic violence policy

City employees will now be granted some leeway if they miss work because of domestic violence at hom

City employees will now be granted some leeway if they miss work because of domestic violence at home.

The Schenectady City Council formally approved a new policy for domestic violence victims Monday, making Schenectady the second city in the state to adopt the state’s recommended policy. Albany adopted it last year.

In essence, the policy removes some of the work-related hardships victims regularly face. They often miss work to meet with counselors, attorneys, or to go to court. Then there’s the days missed due to injuries or mental trauma. It can easily surpass the average worker’s allotted sick days.

Now, if they explain the situation, those days won’t be considered as unapproved absences, said Kathy Finch, city personnel and benefits administrator.

“They wouldn’t get paid for it, if they didn’t have the benefits for it, but it wouldn’t go against them,” she said. “We’ll be able to excuse absences.”

Before, she had no choice: there was no wiggle room for extenuating circumstances. “We couldn’t excuse absences,” she said.

The city had a domestic violence policy before, but it was focused on how to handle attackers who came to City Hall.

“It was mostly focused on people doing violence here and how to handle that,” she said. “This is really for the employee who is in this situation.”

The state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence will run 90-minute training programs for all city employees to explain the new policy. Finch thinks the training may do more than simply teach managers how to support victims.

“If they are the victim of domestic violence, it tells them exactly what to do. And it actually tells them how to know they’re a victim of domestic violence. That’s good — a lot of times you don’t realize, and it takes an outside person telling you something and a light bulb goes off in your head,” she said.

The policy also spells out ways to protect victims. They can ask for escorts to and from their car, or for parking spots near their office. They can also ask to be moved to a different office, among other remedies.

The policy does not ignore the possibility that some city workers could be abusers. All city workers who carry a firearm for work are now required to notify their supervisor if they are convicted of a domestic-violence crime or served with an order of protection. Depending on the court order, they may have to surrender their firearm.

Those who do not inform their supervisors will be disciplined, and police will be notified.

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