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Domestic Violence: One Thing Employers Should Never Ask Co-Workers To Do.

There are fewer potentially toxic situations than when Domestic Violence meets Workplace Violence.

Both crimes tend to be emotion-driven. Because of this, matters can deteriorate rapidly.

When it becomes apparent that an employee is embroiled in a domestic situation, well-meaning employers might ask co-workers to do such things as walk that employee to her/her car or to a bus stop.

If a disgruntled partner enters the workplace and begins an argument, co-workers may even step in to try to mitigate the dispute.

However, employers should refrain from encouraging co-workers to become involved in a colleague's domestic dispute in any manner whatsoever. In fact, such conduct should be discouraged.

Many times, a partner with murder in mind will confront the other partner at work, or just outside of work.

This is because while the disgruntled party may not be aware of all of the other party's comings and goings, the partner's workplace and schedule are likely to be known to the estranged partner.

Any involvement by co-workers, even the simple task of accompanying a colleague to a vehicle in the company parking lot, could enrage the other partner. It could be viewed as interference in a personal matter.

Domestic violence is a crime. It is best left to law enforcement to deal with, not colleagues of an impacted employee.

One tragic attack on a Washington state employee by her estranged husband shows just how dangerous that intersection of domestic violence and workplace violence is, and why co-workers should not get involved in a colleague's domestic troubles.

Enraged Husband Kills Wife Outside Workplace

Rebecca J. Phebus, 57, was an employee of the Achilles Plastic manufacturing plant in Everett, Washington. She went to work one day not knowing what was about to happen to her.

Before making it inside, Rebecca was confronted by her estranged husband, Jeff Phebus, 59. He violently grabbed Rebecca. Screams were heard echoing inside the facility. Then gunfire rang out.

Jeff Phebus shot Rebecca at point black range multiple times before fleeing the scene in his car. Rebecca died in a pool of her own blood, outside the Achilles workplace.

Approximately two hours later, Jeff Phebus was spotted by law enforcement approximately 10 miles away. But even then, he did not go quietly.

Instead, he opened fire on two police officers who shot back. Jeff Phebus then fled on foot. Eventually, he was captured and charged with Rebeca's murder.

Happy Times in the Rear Window; Signs of Trouble Looming Ahead

Some employers may have the mistaken notion that domestic violence in the workplace only occurs in situations where the partners are poor. This was not the scenario concerning the tragic death of Rebecca Phebus.

In happier times, Rebecca and Jeff Phebus ran a successful small business in Arlington, Washington.

The couple was prominent in their community. Their business was written about in the local media. Jeff Phebus became a board member and even served as president of the Downtown Arlington Business Association.

Rebecca and Jeff Phebus at their small business, prior to their separation and Rebecca's tragic murder. (c) The Arlington Times

Following a decade of marriage, however, the business closed. Rebecca Phebus left her husband and moved out of the marital home. She began working at Achilles.

It appears that while Rebecca Phebus was trying to make a new life for herself, her estranged husband was not happy about the situation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an event of domestic violence will occur prior to the time the domestic partner kills in approximately 10% of the time. This is why any act of domestic violence should be taken seriously.

In Rebecca Phebus' case, a protection order had been issued against Jeff Phebus for engaging in such conduct as sending threatening texts to her, and engaging in other troublesome behavior.

Unfortunately, Jeff Phebus showed up outside Rebecca's workplace with murder in mind. He killed Rebecca before she made it inside. Had she done so, however, there is a possibility he may have chased after her.

Additionally, had co-workers tried to intervene before Jeff Phebus pulled out his gun, they could have been endangered as well as Rebecca.


Homicide is the second most likely way for women to die at work, representing 21 percent of workplace deaths. Only on-the-job car accidents ranks higher.

If a domestic partner has confronted his/her estranged partner at work, get police involved immediately.

Do not wait for matters to escalate and never involve innocent co-workers in the dispute.


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