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Chapter 22 Special Topics

Section 5, Workplace Violence


Violence has become a reality for virtually any type of workplace and any type of employee-creating an increasingly pervasive sense of vulnerability among the American workforce. Workplace violence can have devastating effects on the productivity of organizations and on the quality of life of employees. The reality and risks of this growing category of violence must be examined with serious consideration given to what can be done by employers, supervisors, employees, and community resources to provide effective assistance and support to victims of workplace violence.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:

  • The scope and nature of workplace violence occurring in the United States today.

  • The impact and emotional consequences of workplace violence on direct and indirect victims, including co-workers, supervisors, employers, and the community as a whole.

  • Employers' responsibilities in addressing workplace violence and implementing preventive measures.

  • Workplace violence and bank robbery.

  • Domestic violence as a workplace issue.

  • Workplace violence in correctional settings.

  • Effective strategies and interventions that can make the workplace safer and more responsive to employee-victims.


Violence in America has now invaded the workplace, putting at risk the safety, productivity, and health of American workers. Research clearly shows a significant increase in the amount of workplace violence and conflict in recent years. Unfortunately, workplace violence can happen anywhere, anytime. Whenever such a violent incident occurs, great potential exists for physical, emotional, and financial impact on both direct and indirect victims, as well as the whole community. In order to deal effectively with the victimization and its consequences, the employee-victims need specialized assistance, information, and referrals. The reaction, support, and assistance offered by managementand crisis responders are very important to survivors of workplace violence. Information exchange, identification of effective responses, and training must take place in order to improve the capacity and preparedness of American workplaces and victim services to respond collaboratively and effectively to victims of workplace violence.

Statistical Overview

  • Homicide is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. Nearly 1,000 workers are murdered and 1.5 million are assaulted in the workplace each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there were 709 workplace homicides in 1998, accounting for 12% of the total 6,026 fatal work injuries in the United States (BLS 1999).

  • Of the 709 workplace homicide victims in 1998, 569 (80%) were shot and 61 (9%) were stabbed (Ibid).

  • According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), assaults and threats of violence against Americans at work number almost 2 million a year. The most common type of workplace violent crime was simple assault with an average of 1.5 million a year. There were 396,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and 1,000 homicides (BLS 1998).

  • According to the NCVS, retail sales workers were the most numerous victims, with 330,000 being attacked each year. They were followed by police, with 234,200 officers victimized (Ibid.).

  • Robbery continued to be the primary motive of job-related homicide, accounting for 85% of the deaths. Disputes among co-workers and with customers and clients accounted for about one-tenth of the total (Ibid.).

  • In 1997, there were 856 homicides in the workplace, down from 927 in 1996. Of this number, 630 victims (74%) were wage and salary workers and 226 (26%) were self-employed (BJS, Sourcebook, 1999, 298, Table 3.145).

  • Fifty percent of all victims killed in the workplace were between twenty-five and forty-four years of age; 20% were forty-five to fifty-four years of age; 14% were fifty-five to sixty-four years of age; 10% were sixteen to twenty-four years of age; and 6% were sixty-five and older (Ibid.).

  • In 1997, 85% of the victims died during robberies of their workplace; 10% were killed by work associates (7% by current and former co-workers and 3% by clients); and the remaining 5% were killed by personal acquaintances (2% by husbands or ex-husbands, 1% by boyfriends or ex-boyfriends, and 2% by other family members) (Ibid.).

  • In 1997, 83% of workplace violence victims were male, and 17% were female. Sixty-eight percent of the victims were white; 18% were black; 12% were Hispanic; and the remaining 4% were of other or unspecified races (Ibid.).

  • Of selected occupations examined from 1992 to 1996, law enforcement officers were the most vulnerable to be victims of workplace violence. Other occupations with high rates of victimization included private security guards, taxi drivers, prison and jail guards, and bartenders (BJS July 1999).

  • In a study conducted on behalf of Liz Claiborne Inc., 57% of participating senior corporate executives agreed that domestic violence is a major problem in society. One-third of them thought that this problem has had a negative impact on their bottom lines, and 40% said that they were personally aware of employees and other individuals affected by domestic violence. Sixty-six percent believed that their company's financial performance would benefit from addressing the issue of domestic violence among their employees (FVPF 13 August 1999).

  • Findings from a recent survey on domestic violence victims in the workplace reported that 24% of women surveyed said domestic abuse caused them to arrive late for work, 15% of women had a difficult time keeping a job, and 20% of women said that it affected their ability to advance their career (Body Shop 1998).

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that murder is the leading cause of death for women at work and the third leading cause of death for men (OVC 1998).

  • Businesses ranked workplace violence as their top concern for the third straight year in the 1996 Pinkerton Security Issues Survey Report (Montoya 1997, 18).

  • Only 44.2% of violent victimizations sustained at work are reported to the police (BJS 1998).

Types of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence encompasses such crimes as property crimes, harassment, threats and intimidation, physical assaults, sexual assaults, stalking, and homicide. Four general types of offenders commit violence in the workplace:

  • Type I. This offender has no legitimate relationship to the workplace or the victim and usually enters the workplace to commit a criminal action such as a robbery or theft. Common victims of Type I offenders are small late-night retail establishments including convenience stores, restaurants, and taxi drivers. This type of workplace violence also includes terrorist and hate crimes such as the World Trade Center and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombings as well as abortion clinic attacks.

  • Type II. This offender is the recipient of some service provided by the victim or workplace and may be either a current or former client, patient, or customer.

  • Type III. This offender has an employment-related involvement with the workplace. The act of violence is usually committed by a current or former employee, supervisor, or manager who has a dispute with another employee of the workplace. This type of workplace violence is usually referred to as the "disgruntled employee."

  • Type IV. This offender has an indirect involvement with the workplace because of a relationship with an employee and may be a current or former spouse or partner, someone who was in a dating relationship with the employee, or a relative or friend. This type of violence follows the employee into the workplace from the outside.

This basic typology was first identified by the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health in Guidelines for Workplace Security (1995). Cal/OSHA generally identified Types I, II, and III. In the above typology, Type III has been separated into two distinct types of employment-related involvement with the workplace: direct involvement, where the perpetrator is a current or former employee; and indirect involvement, where the perpetrator has (or had) a relationship with a current employee, but has never been employed at the workplace.

Types I and II are the most prevalent incidents of workplace violence in the United States. In reality, there are far more violent acts directed at workers than caused by workers. However, Type III and IV incidents are most often the focus of media attention involving workplace violence.

Occupational Risks for Workplace Violence

Data from the National Crime Victimization Surveys for 1992 to 1996 (BJS 1998) indicate that the following occupations have the highest rates of workplace violence per 1,000 workers:

  • Police officers: 306.0

  • Corrections officers: 217.9

  • Taxi drivers: 183.8

  • Private security guards: 117.3

  • Bartenders: 91.3

  • Mental health professionals: 79.5

  • Gas station attendants: 79.1

  • Convenience and liquor store clerks: 68.4

  • Mental health custodial workers: 63.3

  • Junior high/middle school teachers: 57.4

  • Bus drivers: 45.0

  • Special education teachers: 40.7

  • High school teachers: 28.9

  • Nurses: 24.8

In 1996, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified ten factors that may increase a worker's risk for workplace assault:

  • Contact with the public.

  • Exchange of money.

  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services.

  • Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab or police cruiser.

  • Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social services, or criminal justice settings.

  • Working alone or in small numbers.

  • Working late at night or during early morning hours.

  • Working in high-crime areas.

  • Guarding valuable property or possessions.

  • Working in community-based settings.

Workers who have been interviewed following their workplace victimizations have strongly advised that all workers, supervisors, and managers need to acknowledge the problem of workplace violence, advocate for safe work environments, and train workers in precautionary measures and in what to expect if they do become victims (Atkinson 1991).

Victim Impact and Emotional Consequences

Whenever a violent incident occurs in the workplace, great potential for physical, psychological, and financial damage exists. In the aftermath of the violence, the survivors, including those who were injured, those who were targeted but missed, witnesses, co-workers, family members, friends, and other people in the organization, can be emotionally devastated. A person's entire life, including relationships with family and the ability to work and carry out everyday activities, can be affected. For the survivors and their co-workers, the workplace is no longer a safe place--it has become a threatening environment. When workplace violence occurs, employees generally have a concern about the possibility of a reoccurrence. The more meaningless and arbitrary the incident, the more vulnerable and unsafe the survivors seem to feel.

Survivors experience three general types of posttraumatic consequences in the hours and days following work-related traumatic incidents (Bergmann 1997):

  • Re-experiencing consequences include feeling as if the incident is happening again, constant and intrusive thoughts about the event, fear or anxiety and concern about another or similar incident happening, and nightmares.

  • Withdrawal consequences include attempts not to think about or to feel emotions connected to the incident. These attempts can include overworking or not coming back to work, depression, avoidance of reminders of the incident, withdrawal from family and friends, and possibly, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

  • Other consequences include such things as anger, irritability, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and an exaggerated startle response.

All of the posttrauma consequences experienced by any victim of violent crime are generally also experienced by a victim of workplace violence. Although the impact is much the same, the workplace violence victim is expected to return to "the scene of the crime" day after day and to continue to function efficiently. Long-term problems can develop if posttraumatic consequences are not managed. With immediate and effective responses to work-related trauma, most of these long-term problems can be prevented or managed, and the workers and the organization can resume regular activities.

The overall goals for victims of workplace violence in dealing with their emotional reactions to the traumatic event are the decrease of distressing symptoms, the enhancement of emotional expression, and the assimilation of the traumatic experience (Baron 1993). The process of resolution can be facilitated by family and friends who acknowledge the trauma, allow the individual to talk about it, and accept the uneven road to resolution.

Employees who receive information about posttrauma consequences, especially the normal psychological consequences of exposure to violent incidents, can better manage their feelings and reactions to workplace violence after it happens. Detailed discussion of the incident with others is often an element of posttraumatic resolution. If the violent incident affected a large portion of the workforce, the employer may consider bringing professional help to the workplace to assist employees in discussing and dealing with all that the violent incident has precipitated. Community services and resources are available for crime victims in many jurisdictions. Community victim advocacy services are especially vital to domestic violence and stalking victims. Supervisors and human resource directors should check into the available community services and provide workers with the names of available referrals and resources.

An effective response to violent incidents that occur within a workplace should include the following strategies and interventions (Bergmann 1997):

  • Plan procedures for the immediate support of all survivors of violence.

  • Create policies for providing help in the form of humanitarian assistance.

  • Locate and screen mental health professionals to provide posttrauma services.

  • Agree on psychological services to be provided, including procedures for leave and return-to-work policies.

  • Review workers' compensation rules concerning psychological injuries.

  • Implement procedures for evaluating affected personnel at regular intervals.

The reaction, support, and assistance offered by management and those around them are very important to survivors of workplace violence. Secondary victimization occurs when employers, managers, employees, or those contracted by an organization respond in one of the following ways:

  • Disbelief and denial. The incident's description or details provided by the victim(s) are not believed.

  • Discounting. The magnitude of the incident and its results are poorly understood or minimized.

  • Blaming the victim. Responsibility for the incident is attributed to the victim(s).

  • Stigmatization. A judgment is made concerning the psychological consequences for a victim of a traumatic event, such as ridicule for experiencing symptoms or a belief that symptoms result from malingering or for attention or sympathy, etc.

  • Denial of assistance. Necessary services are denied because they are perceived as unwarranted, undeserved, or unnecessary.

One study of the effectiveness of posttraumatic services concludes that those receiving immediate assistance have had fewer incidences of permanent disability, were less likely to seek legal action against the company, and saved companies an average of about $37,000, as compared to companies in which employees did not receive timely help. There appear to be significant results in the nonfinancial area as well. Employees feel very positive about their employers and believe that the company is concerned about their well-being when efforts are made to respond to traumatic incidents in the workplace. This often translates into greater productivity and fewer absences (Bergmann 1997).

In 1993, the Northwestern National Life Insurance company conducted a survey on workplace violence. The survey was based upon telephone interviews with 600 full-time employees who worked thirty-five hours or more per week. Workers with employers who reported effective human resource programs, such as grievance procedures, protection from and recourse for harassment, and security programs, had lower rates of workplace violence. For example, only 18 percent of those employees whose employers had a grievance, harassment, and security program reported being attacked, threatened, or harassed in the past twelve months versus 31 percent of the employees whose employers did not have such programs. Northwestern National concludes that improved interpersonal relations and effective prevention programs can significantly reduce the levels of violence in the workplace (Northwestern National Life 1993).

Employer Responsibilities and Legal Duties

Many organizations are now looking at what can be done about the issue of workplace violence. One of the most important starting points is to acknowledge that it can happen. The majority of workplaces feel that "it could never happen here." This denial is one of the major barriers in addressing the issue of workplace violence. Conversely, many work organizationshave taken a "zero tolerance" stand on any type of violence or harassment in the workplace. By taking this stance, employees are clearly made aware that violence, aggressive behavior, and harassment will not be tolerated. This not only provides a deterrent effect, but also gives employees a feeling that their safety is important to the organization.

The key to reduction of violence is to discuss the possibility before it happens and have a response plan in place. Policies and procedures are required to effectively handle the problem of workplace violence. Current statistics are that only 44.2 percent of the violent victimizations sustained at work are reported to the police (BJS 1998). When no system is in place, many employees will not bring concerns or fears to management. Employers must create an atmosphere where workers are encouraged to report threats if they occur. Too often in the past, employers have ignored threats, and violence has occurred, often with fatal results. Employers have a legal duty under the negligent retention doctrine to heed notice of threats and harassment that occur within the workplace and adequately respond to employees' complaints and warnings about potentially dangerous employees (Kinney and Johnson 1993).

A vital part of any workplace violence prevention plan is the development of guidelines for workers to report either actual violent incidents or suspected trouble. The guidelines stipulate that supervisors should be employees' first contact. If the incident requires further action or investigation, the chain of involvement is usually human resources, the legal department, and then security (Anfuso 1994). If neither management nor security respond to an employee's report, the employee should then also report any incident or threat of violence to the local law enforcement authorities.

Because employers are required by law to provide adequate security, an employer can be held liable for violence that occurs in the workplace for failure to provide adequate security (Gagnon 1995). Employers and employees stand in a special relationship, and courts have held that employers have a duty to provide employees with a safe workplace. Employers may also be liable under the legal theory of respondeat superior and negligent hiring or employment retention for assaults committed by co-workers. Many court actions have raised questions of negligent security practices as well as the removal of potential hazards (Baron 1993). Administrative controls such as conflict resolution training and requiring that employees not work alone are suggested. This is geared toward controlling violence from customers and clients but can also include disgruntled employees--especially when layoffs or termination occur.

In-service training regarding workplace safety is an integral part of creating a safe environment. Topics can include first aid and CPR training, safety awareness, personal safety training, and training to recognize potentially violent situations in the workplace. Enhancing employee security is one way of letting employees know that management is concerned for their welfare.

Trauma response plans should include training programs to increase information about trauma and its psychological impact and preparation of rapid response personnel to assist in crisis intervention and peer support. They should also include procedures for monitoring individuals during emotional turmoil and recovery phases following trauma so that effective mental healthreferrals can be made when necessary. Employees must also know what community services and resources are available for crime victims. Victim service professionals should be aware of and linked to community efforts to respond as necessary.

There should be a written plan for handling violence that includes details concerning what will happen before, during, and after any incidents. Having a trauma plan in place ahead of time will help a company make it through a violent crisis. Management needs to make some decisions about workplace violence on a case-by-case basis and, at the same time, have written protocol and procedures in place to address all potential situations before they erupt into violence.

A threat management policy should include the following elements:

  • Identify ways to ensure employees feel they can report threats in a safe and secure way, such as establishing a hotline or written policy statements.

  • Identify the department (i.e., security or human resources) to which threats should be reported within the business.

  • Define the scope of duties for threat management teams.

  • Identify individuals who will be a part of the threat management team.

  • Set criteria for convening the threat management team and for referring incidents to law enforcement.

  • Mandate primary and refresher training criteria for team members and for key supervisors and managers (Kinney and Johnson 1993).

The establishment of a nonharassment policy is essential. Most of those who have committed acts of violence in the workplace have been described by co-workers and supervisors as intimidators (Northwestern National Life 1993). New and current employees should be required to read and sign an acknowledgment of this policy. This procedure puts all employees on notice and makes administrative actions against violators much less difficult for management to enforce.

Significant Research

One of the most significant outcomes of research into unions and the prevention of workplace violence was the discovery of the relative absence of violence prevention provisions in union contracts. An article in Compensation and Working Conditions, Fall 1999, discussed research that indicates that unions could make important contributions to prevent workplace violence. In most labor agreements, unions and management are already committed to a safe work environment. While research shows that unions and management generally negotiate clauses on subjects affecting the health and safety of the employees, there is little known cooperation on the subject of workplace violence (Gray, Myers, and Myers Fall 1999, 5-12).

Researchers collected data in their examination of workplace violence provisions in private sector collective bargaining agreements from 1,168 contracts covering 5.2 million employees filed with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 14 of the 1,168 contracts reviewed by the researchers had provisions on workplace violence, covering only 1.5 percent of the workforce (Ibid).

Furthermore, the industry data showed that while a high percentage of workplace homicides occur in the retail trades, only one out of 110 retail contracts had a single provision on workplace violence. In the healthcare industry, where 44 percent of all nonfatal assaults occur, only five out of thirty-five contracts had at least one clause that dealt with workplace violence. Of the fourteen contracts that dealt with workplace violence, fewer than five aspects of the problem were covered and only one contract had a violence response provision (Ibid).

Researchers surmised that workplace violence prevention strategies are possibly dealt with in the context of management rules of conduct, and considered a management right, but the lack of coverage in the contract language clearly reflected a limited use of collective bargaining in preventing and controlling workplace violence. Union negotiators should make workplace violence a top priority, as has been done by corporate security directors and human resource professionals who represent the companies with whom they negotiate (Ibid).

Red Flags for Employee Behavior

Management's most important line of defense in preventing workplace violence is to combine preventive human resource practices with close attention to the warning signs that may predict violent behavior. A plan should be in place with a management team trained on what to watch for and what procedures to follow. Red flags for stress in the workplace include layoffs, reductions in force, and labor disputes. Managers must be trained so that they can properly discuss these realities with employees.

According to John E. Douglas, former chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Investigative Support Unit, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, some of the potential employee behaviors (Burgess and Douglas 1994) that should place managers and co-workers on alert include the following:

  • Having an obsession with weapons.

  • Compulsive reading and collecting of gun magazines.

  • Excessively discussing weapons.

  • Making direct or veiled threats.

  • Intimidating or instilling fear in others.

  • Having an obsession with one's job.

  • Showing little involvement with co-workers.

  • Displaying unwanted romantic interest in a co-worker.

  • Exhibiting paranoid behavior.

  • Being unaccepting of criticism.

  • Holding a grudge.

  • Having recent family, financial, academic, social, legal, or other personal problems.

  • Showing interest in recently publicized violent acts.

  • Testing the limits of acceptable behavior.

  • Making extreme changes in behavior or stated beliefs.

Caution: This list is merely to help develop awareness and recognition of potential risk behaviors. There is no definitive checklist of behavioral indicators for a potential perpetrator of workplace violence.

Bank Robbery

Victims of bank robbery can include bank customers, bank employees (tellers, managers, and security guards), law enforcement officers, and other members of the community. A common reaction by tellers, the largest group affected by bank robberies, is a tremendous amount of self-blame. Bank tellers, in the aftermath of a bank robbery, feel that they should have been able to do something to stop the crime. While bank robbery is generally not considered a personal crime but a crime against the bank, most tellers take it very personally. In some instances, tellers are injured, taken hostage, or even killed.


  • Acts of violence were committed during 348 of the 7,384 robberies, burglaries, and larcenies occurring during 1994.

  • These acts included 149 instances involving the discharge of firearms, 6 instances involving explosives, 172 instances involving assaults, and 34 other instances of violence.

  • In almost half of the number of bank robberies in 1994, the threat of a weapon was used by the bank robber against the bank employee.

  • One or more acts of violence may occur during an incident. Acts of violence resulted in 167 injuries, 23 deaths and 61 persons being taken hostage.

  • Loot was taken (cash, securities, other property) in 6,804 incidents totaling $58,428,792.

The type of individuals injured, killed or taken hostage during violations of the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crime Statute, 18 U.S.C. 2113 (1994) are as follows:

Type of VictimInjuriesDeaths Hostages Taken
Total 16723 *61
Employee 88284
Employee family003
Law officer1620

*These hostages were taken in 36 separate incidents.

(The preceding statistics and chart are from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bank Crime Statistics, Federally Insured Financial Institutions, January 1, 1994-December 31, 1994, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1995.)


Re-occurring reactions expressed by victims of bank robberies include:

  • Continuing fear that the robber will return either for retribution or to rob them again. This reaction persists until they are informed that a suspect has been apprehended.

  • Fear of any strangers who approach them in the bank. Some fears are so strong that tellers have refused to wait on customers, especially in instances where customers' clothing, glasses, bags, etc., are similar to that of the suspect.

  • Guilt that they are responsible for the monetary loss.

  • Difficulty handling daily tasks and decision making on the job or at home.

  • Identification of the robber especially on a face-to-face basis.

  • Feelings of intense vulnerability and feeling "trapped" in their positions.

  • The prevalent feeling that they are "going crazy." This comes from victims not recognizing they are reacting normally to trauma.

  • Anxiety about their part in the criminal justice process (particularly being a witness and facing the alleged robber in court).

  • Reluctance to share their feelings and concerns with co-workers or supervisors for fear of being judged unstable and at risk of losing their job.

  • Fear that they will be disciplined or even lose their jobs because they were robbed or allowed the robber to escape.

  • Thoughts about resigning as a teller and, in many cases, acting on this impulse. It is interesting to note that most exit interview forms do not cover robbery as a reason for a bank employee resigning his or her position.

  • Insecurity about being singled out by the robber provokes thoughts of being picked for other robberies.

  • Frustration at not being told by police or prosecutors that the suspect was apprehended or prosecuted.

  • Fear that requesting counseling paid under workers' compensation will label them as a troublesome or troubled employee or employer.

  • Revictimization by insensitive employers.

Because bank robberies occur in all jurisdictions (large urban communities and small rural towns), victimized bank tellers are left with the fear that there is no "safe place" to move to reestablish their sense of security. Many leave their jobs, due in large part to this fear and the resulting stress.

In addition, law enforcement officials and the employer may look at the teller suspiciously, or even fire the employee, if he or she did not give the perpetrator bait money or the dye packs that some banks employ to intercept bank robbers. Law enforcement may not understand crisis reactions to trauma when the victim may not remember or follow bank procedures. Rather, the victim responded in what he or she felt safe in doing at the time of the robbery. Thus, the teller may, in some cases, be viewed by law enforcement officials as a possible suspect "of an inside job."

While many banks are supportive of their employees in the aftermath of a robbery, some banks cause a secondary victimization, isolating the employee from other workers while the investigation is being conducted.


When a financial institution is robbed, there is an obvious monetary loss to the institution; however, there are additional costs to financial institutions that go unnoticed. There is a direct link between trauma suffered by victims of bank robbery and the amount of indirect loss to financial institutions caused by the robbery itself (Powers 1989). Costs of bank robbery to the banking industry include the following:

  • Dollars lost to robbery.

  • Productivity affected.

  • Service delivery influenced by fear.

  • Increased sick leave.

  • Attendance problems.

  • Morale affected.

  • Balancing problems.

  • Workers' compensation claims.

  • Increased insurance costs.

  • Risk of stress claims.

  • Management-employee relations.

  • Turnover due to resignations.

  • Loss of customer accounts (Gibson 1990).


In addition to the more immediate crisis services that victims may require on-scene, victim advocates need to ensure that when a suspect has been apprehended and/or charged, the bank teller is notified, as well as other victims who were present during the robbery. They need to inform victims how the case will be processed throughout the system (whether federal or state), assist victims in filling out victim impact statements, and inform victims of their right to allocution during sentencing. Victims may also qualify for restitution payments for time lost from work and health- and mental health-related expenses that resulted from the bank robbery.

Victim advocates should also provide bank robbery victims with information about victim compensation, including the application process, and assist them as needed in completing necessary forms.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Until recently, domestic violence was not an issue that was high on the business community's agenda. Even though almost half of the American workforce is made up of women, only a handful of workplaces have taken leadership roles on this issue in the last decade. This is changing, as a growing number of employers recognize the serious impact of domestic violence on both their employees' lives and their bottom lines.

Women who have been abused take the violence with them to work, and it shows--in lost productivity, stress, increased health care costs, employee absenteeism, turnover, and sometimes, workplace violence. When an employee is the target of attack in the workplace by an intimate, other employees may also be placed at risk. Whether or not employers acknowledge it, domestic violence is a problem that does not disappear when women leave home and enter the workplace. In fact, a large percentage of abused women spend much of their time on the job. They work with long sleeves and high collars covering the bruises. They come to work in spite of headaches, physical injuries, depression, and chronic anxiety. Often they work because they have to in order to support their families.

While the following indicators could be explained by something other than domestic violence, they also could be possible signs that an employee is being battered:

  • Bruises she may try to explain as being caused by an accident.

  • Frequent or unexplained absences or lateness.

  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave her upset.

  • A decline in job performance-difficulty concentrating or working effectively.

  • Withdrawal from co-workers.


Employers can help create a workplace environment supported by comprehensive, legally sound policies that both assist women employees affected by violence and ensure that workplaces address the serious legal issues raised as a result of violence against women. Employers who take action will not only avoid liability costs but also make an important difference in the lives of women and improve productivity and safety in their workplaces. As stated in a U.S. Office of Personnel Management guidebook for managers:

If somebody is threatening, harassing, or injuring another person, it is a criminal act. Forget all the polite rules about ignoring lovers' quarrels, because this is another kind of situation altogether . . . Never underestimate the possible dangerousness of someone who batters, stalks, or otherwise mistreats another person, whatever their relationship may be (Tyler 1996, 33).

There are many steps employers can take depending on a workplace's level of commitment, available resources, and size. Possible steps might include the following:

  • Training for managers and supervisors. Because managers may be among the first to see the signs of abuse, training them to know what to look for and how to help victimized employees is a critical element of a workplace domestic violence strategy. Such training needs to include issues such as employee confidentiality, the dynamics and cycle of domestic violence, appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach a victim, and available in-house and community-based resources.

  • Implementation of domestic violence personnel policies. Workplaces can develop personnel policies that accommodate the needs of battered women. Procedures that allow employees to disclose their abuse confidentially and guidelines that define managers' and employees' roles and responsibilities in working with abused workers further enhance the victim sensitivity of the workplace. Policies such as flexible working hours for medical and legal appointments and possible relocation to a new work site or change in work shift can provide an additional layer of safety without forcing women to leave their jobs.

  • Specialized employee assistance program (EAP) services. When workplaces have such programs, they should make sure that services for victims of domestic violence are included. Local domestic violence specialists can be brought in to train EAP counselors or to conduct training for human resource personnel and supervisors and provide referrals to local battered women shelters and services.

  • Security. Home phone numbers and addresses of employees should never be given out without specific authorization. Whenever possible, pictures of identified batterers should be kept at the front entrance to help prevent access. Security or other personnel can protect abused employees by escorting them to the parking lot, bus stop, or subway station. Some companies provide designated parking spaces close to the building for employees threatenedby violence. Others offer silent alarms at desks or provide cellular telephones to women employees who are at risk. However, supervisors should always ask each victim what solutions best suit her particular circumstances.

  • Help employees develop a safety plan. Trained employees, counselors, EAP staff, or community domestic violence advocates can assist women in developing a safety plan. Every victim's circumstances will be unique, but an objective, trained listener can help the victim develop an individualized safety plan to minimize the risk of continued violence or physical harm.

  • Document the abuse. An employer can assist a victim of domestic violence by documenting her bruises or injuries and the fact that she reported a violent incident to someone at the work site. Local domestic violence advocates can help determine what documentation an employer should keep, what safeguards will help ensure that confidential information is not divulged, and help ensure that the victim's privacy is not compromised.

  • Know the law. Workplaces should be familiar with the current domestic violence laws and ordinances of their city and state, as well as federal regulations and rulings. Local domestic violence programs or local law enforcement can provide the most current information. The legal requirements in many cities and states are evolving, and increasingly the law is imposing a duty on employers to provide a safe workplace, including taking reasonable steps to prevent and stop violence against women at work.

  • Consider workplace orders of protection. In some states, including California and Massachusetts, employers can apply for orders of protection on behalf of the workplace to keep batterers away from the victim's work site. This can be an important strategy in cases where the batterer may be enraged by such legal action and escalate the violence if he knows the victim obtained the protection order. However, this action should never be taken without careful and deliberate consideration of what is best for that victim in her particular circumstances and never without her consent.

  • Provide general education and prevention programs. Seminars describing the nature and prevalence of domestic violence and options for getting help can let employees know that they are not to blame, that there are alternatives to violence, and that there is assistance available. Sponsoring seminars on company time demonstrates concretely that the workplace is committed to helping and ensures a greater level of participation. Because some victims may feel more comfortable learning about their options outside of a group setting, education can also be conducted through brochures and other information posted in visible places throughout the workplace, including cafeterias, restrooms, and lounges.

  • Provide resources and referrals. Workplaces should provide an up-to-date list of national and local resources such as emergency shelters, counseling services, hotlines, and support groups that provide assistance and information for victims of domestic violence.

The business community is beginning to accept the reality that employers have both a legal obligation and a social responsibility to prevent violence against their employees and to respond to such violence and its effects when it occurs. By addressing the effects of domestic violence in the workplace, companies will reap the double benefits of limiting legal liability and maximizing employees' productivity and contributions to the company.

Responding to Workplace Violence in Correctional Settings

(The following section is based on Responding to Workplace Violence and Staff Victimization in Probation, Parole and Corrections, 1998, written by Anne Seymour and sponsored by the National Center for Victims of Crime with support from U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.)

Physical assaults. Sexual harassment. Hostage-taking incidents. Spitting and throwing feces and urine. Rape. And the ultimate violation: murder.

What to some people appears to simply be a litany of their worst violent crime fears is, for many correctional professionals, a daily threat in their workplace. While much attention has been focused on increasing incidents of workplace violence in America, less attention has been paid to the violent acts committed against those who dedicate their lives to public safety and protection: corrections, probation and parole professionals. Since 1990, the Office for Victims of Crime has sought to address workplace violence in correctional settings through training and technical assistance initiatives sponsored by the National Center for Victims of Crime, with support from all major national correctional associations.

There is a flawed assumption that people who choose corrections as their profession must accept risks to their personal safety, and that being victimized is "just part of the job." Certainly, corrections is a tough job that is made even more difficult by the threat and carrying out of violent acts. And such difficulties are enhanced when correctional agencies fail to adopt strong policies and procedures that promote worker safety and victim assistance when an employee is victimized on- or off-the-job.

The issues of violence and victimization in correctional settings--including institutions, jails, youth detention centers, probation and parole--can differ significantly from similar issues in the general population:

  • Due solely to the nature of correctional populations, the risk of being victimized on-the-job is greater for correctional professionals than for most other jobs.

  • Many agencies lack policies and procedures on how staff can and should report workplace violence, and how the agency will respond to them.

  • The scope and breadth of community-based victim services provide a fairly good "safety net" for citizens who are victimized while, in corrections, the availability of agency-sponsored victim services are limited or, in some cases, nonexistent.

  • The typical process for dealing with violent crimes in the community involves investigations, arrests and criminal prosecutions. In corrections, some matters that would otherwise be considered "criminal" are handled administratively, depending on agency policies and procedures.

  • A basic element of crisis intervention for victims is assuring them that the crime "is not their fault." In correctional settings, there are occasions when a staff member's oversight,negligence, or failure to follow established procedures contribute in some way to his or her victimization.

  • As a result, "victim blaming" for incidents of workplace violence in correctional settings becomes a barrier to crisis intervention and follow-on supportive services for the victimized staff. Victim assistance is often accompanied by disciplinary actions. In addition, other staff may harbor feelings of resentment toward a victimized colleague who failed to follow procedures, as their alleged negligent actions may have put others at risk.

  • In the community, victims often exercise options to completely remove themselves from "the scene of the crime," i.e., leaving their homes and communities, getting a new job, changing identities, etc. In corrections, victimized staff are, in many cases, expected to "return to the scene of the crime"--often very soon after the incident occurs. Rapid reintegration into the workplace without extensive supportive services can be a "trigger" for severe psychological reactions.

  • In some cases, the victimizer (inmate, probationer or parolee) continues to remain in the same institution, or report to the same field office, while the victim (the corrections professional) is transferred to another site "in his or her best interests." Such actions can be considered punitive and erroneously support the concept that the victim was to blame.

  • Inmates, probationers and parolees with histories of victimizing staff must continue to be supervised in the correctional setting. The responsibility of supervising or monitoring a known "correctional staff victimizer" can add tremendous stress to those who must assume this job.

These differences may affect the scope and sufficiency of the agency's services for staff who fall prey to workplace violence. Recognizing and understanding these unique characteristics are two of the most important steps toward formulating an appropriate agency response that best meets the special needs of correctional employees.


Every correctional agency has an important obligation to its employees to promote their safety and well-being. In order to shape the issues that must be addressed, California Youth Authority Assistant Director, Prevention and Victim Services Sharon English and public safety consultant Anne Seymour developed ten suggestions for agencies and administrators to respond to workplace violence:

  1. All corrections, probation, and parole agencies should have clear policies and procedures for responding to workplace violence that encourage reporting of criminal incidents, and provide support for the victimized staff, witnesses, and entire unit or office in which the critical incident occurred.

  2. All agencies should have emergency response teams available around the clock, with members trained in victimology theory, responses, and interventions.

  3. Staff safety training programs should incorporate victim assistance as well as worker safety and critical incident prevention.

  4. Management and administrative staff should be professionally trained in death notification procedures that include in-person sensitive notifications, crisis intervention, and on-site and continuing support for murdered employees' family members.

  5. Supervisors and managers must receive training on how victimization affects their employees' career choices, how victimized employees might treat inmates, parolees, or probationers, and how victimized staff are viewed by their co-workers.

  6. Procedures on staff reintegration must be established and practiced, focusing not only on the victimized staff member but also on his or her professional peers.

  7. Corrections professionals should be involved in any disciplinary hearings or criminal proceedings resulting from their victimization, including notification of case status, the right to be present at key proceedings, submission of a victim impact statement, and protection from intimidation, harassment, or harm.

  8. Corrections has an ongoing responsibility to the family of victimized staff members. Efforts should be made to provide them with information, input and support, not only at the crisis stage of the victimization but also in the months that follow.

  9. Following a staff victimization or critical incident, agencies should establish policies and procedures for rumor control that include a brief statement of facts for agency employees and the news media.

  10. Corrections, probation, and parole agencies should establish strong affiliations with local victim service organizations. Over 9.000 local agencies can provide crisis intervention, support groups for victimized staff and training on victim trauma and reactions following a crime.

Promising Practices

  • In October 1995, President Bill Clinton ordered federal agencies to create programs to promote employee awareness of domestic violence and provide resources to victims.

  • Recently, the National Workplace Resource Center on Domestic Violence of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, with support from OVC, published a guide, The Workplace Responds to Domestic Violence: A Resource Guide for Employers, Unions and Advocates (Family Violence Prevention Fund 1998). This guide cites a 1995-96 working group of employer, labor, and government organizations which developed a consensus document called Ten Principles for the Workplace, which "describes the attributes of a comprehensive and compassionate workplace response to domestic violence." These ten principles include a safe workplace environment; increased safety measures for victims of domestic violence; respect for the authority and autonomy of adult victims; equal rights, opportunities, and benefits for victims of domestic violence as for all other employees; nondiscrimination against victims of domestic violence in the workplace; appropriate treatment and discipline for employees who commit acts of domestic violence; education on domestic violence foremployees; and support for community efforts to end domestic violence (Family Violence Prevention Fund 1998).

  • The Victim-Witness Coordinator in the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has developed an innovative outreach program for victims of bank robberies, specifically addressing bank employees. The office, with input from bank tellers who have been victims of bank robberies, has developed a brochure entitled: When Bank Employees Become Victims of a Robbery (AFSCME 1998). In addition, OVC funded a model program at the U.S. Attorney's Office, which created the video titled After the Robbery: Crisis to Resolution, available from the OVC Resource Center. It not only provides information about the specific trauma reactions of bank employees, but also offers advice about how to cope and where to go for assistance.

    The program's response to bank employees is as follows:

    • Immediately following the robbery, a trained crisis response professional goes to the scene of the robbery and provides follow-up visits to bank employees.

    • The crisis response professional and trained counselors also provide debriefing to customers, tellers, and staff as well as referrals to local assistance programs.

    • The staff provides a workshop for victim tellers every three months where employees are able to tell their stories in a supportive group atmosphere.

    • Law enforcement officers attend the workshops to provide case updates.

    • An Assistant U.S. Attorney attends the meetings to discuss the court system and to answer any questions about victims' rights.

  • The Victim-Witness Coordinator for the Eastern District of Wisconsin created a Task Force in the early 1990s composed of bank security professionals, law enforcement personnel, and federal and local victim-witness providers, crisis response professionals, and victim bank tellers. The Task Force organizes the workshop, which is conducted four times a year. Any individual who attends can join a support group that is generally held for six weeks. Following the termination of the support group, employees who need additional counseling are referred to specially trained local mental health professionals.

  • Hardee's, Inc., has begun extensive training for its fast-food company managers on everything from store security systems to dealing with stalking situations of employees. The company communicates safety information constantly to its workforce through a monthly newsletter and other publications. All of Hardee's workers also receive personal safety training.

  • Kaiser Permanente's Southern California branch made a year-long commitment in 1997 to educate its corporate employee assistance program customers about the impact of violence on the workforce. The company held a series of conferences for EAP managers and professionals around the state.

  • In 1996, the Wisconsin State Employees' Union sponsored workshops that introduced members to workplace violence issues and how to resolve them. As a result of educating employees, an ad hoc joint labor/management committee on workplace violence was created. The committee developed a workplace violence policy that served as a first step indeveloping specific actions such as methods of supporting victims and witnesses of workplace violence, preventive measures, education and training, and data collection and analysis.

  • The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME 1998) has produced a domestic violence guide for all members, stewards, and labor-management representatives and encourages protective measures and services for members who are victims of domestic violence.

  • The state of Florida recently convened an Interagency Workgroup on the Impact of Domestic Violence on the Workplace with the mission of promoting statewide guidelines for workplace domestic violence policies.

  • In 1984, the Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dealt with its first known case of domestic violence involving an employee. Since that time, a concerted effort has been made to develop a comprehensive program to respond to the issue, encompassing the company's employee assistance, human resources, legal, medical, security, and ombudsperson departments.

  • Since 1995, Aetna, Inc., based in Hartford, Connecticut, has integrated domestic violence prevention education into its nationwide employee wellness program. The company observes the annual Work to End Domestic Violence Day, holds workplace seminars, and publishes awareness articles in employee publications.

  • Oregon and Iowa have bills pending in the legislature that would allow victims of domestic violence to qualify for unemployment benefits, which are employer-financed, when threatened in the workplace and forced to quit for self-protection.

  • A number of correctional agencies have implemented model workplace violence and staff victimization response programs including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the California Department of Corrections, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the South Carolina Department of Corrections, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

  • A Minnesota organization offers theater-based training to organizations that are designed to get to the heart of problems like sexual harassment and violence in the workplace by making it safe for employees to talk about them. The organization consists of two principals and a core group of ten actors and two facilitators who come from a variety of professions, including law and organization development. Using actors to depict familiar workplace situations, theater-based trainings bring issues into the training room and demonstrate solutions to difficult problems. It provides a safe environment for employees to discuss conflict and a forum for employers to communicate important policy dos and don'ts to their employees.

  • The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse at the University of Minnesota (MINCAVA) serves as a clearinghouse to provide online resources on violence and abuse, and in particular, violence in the workplace. MINCAVA highlights higher education curricula used in violence education programs; lists relevant homepages in the fields of education, law, health services, and human services; and maintains abstracts of articles and papers that address concerns about workplace violence. MINCAVA, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, 195 Peters Hall, 1404 Gortner Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108 (800-646-2282).

Workplace Violence Self-Examination

1. What are the four types of workplace violence offenders, and how do they differ?


2. What are some of the factors that may increase a worker's risk for workplace assault?


3. Describe two of the emotional consequences of workplace violence for victims.


4. Name and describe at least three strategies or interventions for effective response to a workplace violence incident.


5. Briefly describe some of the potential employee behaviors that should place managers and co-workers on alert.


6. What are three interventions employers can make on behalf of an employee involved in an abusive relationship?


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Chapter 22 Special Topics June 2002
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