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Violence Against Women In The Workplace

Although workplace violence is receiving increased attention in the media, the incidents that make the news are only the tip of the iceberg.

  • In 2000, 13,935 women had injuries or illnesses involving days away from work that resulted from assaults and violent acts (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]).
  • Homicide is the second-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for women, after traffic accidents. Thirty-one percent of women who die at work are killed as a result of an assault or violent act. In 2003, 119 women died as a result of an assault or violent act in the workplace (BLS).
  • 12.7 percent of all female violent crimes were committed while the victim was working or on duty. These acts of nonfatal violence include rape and sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault (BLS).
  • Some 36,500 rapes and sexual assaults occur annually in the workplace. In 80 percent of these incidents, the victim was female (NCVS).
  • Nurses experience workplace crime at a rate 72 percent higher than medical technicians and at more than twice the rate of other medical fieldworkers (NCVS).
  • Professional (social worker/psychiatrist) and custodial care providers in the mental health care field were victimized while working or on duty at rates more than three times those in the medical field (NCVS).
  • Junior high school teachers have a rate of victimization in the workplace similar to convenience store clerks—54.2 versus 53.9 per 1,000 workers (NCVS).

The data on workplace violence is scattered and inadequate to understand the extent of the problem. Many acts of nonfatal violence and threats in the workplace go unreported because there is no coordinated data-collection system to process the information. More than 936,000 of the nearly 2 million workplace crimes committed yearly were not reported to the police. Rape and sexual assaults were reported to the police at an even lower rate of 24 percent.

Most incidents of violence fall into four categories:

Four Types of Workplace Violence

  1. Violence committed by clients or patients.
  2. Violence associated with robbery or other crimes.
  3. Violence among co-workers or managers.
  4. Domestic violence that spills over into the workplace.

Taking Action, Preventing Violence

It is the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace free of violence. Supervisors should not assume violence is just “part of the job” and that workers shouldn’t complain.

Work with your union. If you experience workplace violence and are represented by a union, talk to your union representative. Urge other members to document all assault incidents, close calls and abusive behavior.

Unions have been pushing for the recognition of workplace violence as an occupational issue, not just a criminal justice issue, and support voluntary implementation of workplace violence prevention programs. 

Contact OSHA. Although there is no OSHA standard designed to protect workers from violence, OSHA has cited employers under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace. To sustain a general duty clause violation, OSHA must prove the existence of a hazard, which is recognized and causes or is likely to cause death or serious physical harm, and the existence of a feasible and effective method to abate the hazard.

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