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Chapter 22 Special Topics (Section 5 Supplement)

Workplace Violence

Statistical Overview

  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that between 1993 and 1999, U.S. residents suffered an annual average of 1.7 million violent workplace victimizations among people twelve years old and over. In addition to nonfatal workplace crimes, there were 900 workplace-related homicides annually during those years (BJS 2001).

  • The same BJS study reported that between 1993 and 1999, the nonfatal workplace violence rate declined by 44% and the workplace homicide rate by 39% (Ibid.).

  • Of the occupations examined, law enforcement officers continued to experience crime at the highest rate (260.8 incidents per 1,000) followed by corrections officers (155.7 per 1,000) and taxicab drivers (128.3 per 1,000) (Ibid.).

  • A current or former boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse of the victim committed about 1% of all reported workplace crimes (Ibid.).

  • Workplace victimizations against males were equally likely to be reported to the police as not reported to the police (50%). Workplace victimizations against women were less likely to be reported (40%). Rape and sexual assaults were reported to the police at the lowest percentage (24%) when compared to other crimes (Ibid.).

  • Studies have found that 60% to 70% of women law enforcement officers experience sexual/gender harassment. Only 4% to 6% of these women ever report harassment. According to a recent Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) guide on hiring and retaining women in law enforcement, the lack of reporting "can be directly attributed to the code of silence in law enforcement agencies and the severe retaliation that occurs when women report misconduct" (BJA 2001).

Policy Developments


In an effort to improve the reporting of workplace violence, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) no longer exempts domestic violence occurring on the workplace premises from the reporting requirement even though the acts are unrelated to employment. Employers are now required to report injuries and illnesses arising from violent acts by family members, ex-spouses, and intimate partners in the workplace. OSHA asserts that some incidences of domestic violence at work may be prevented by appropriate security.measures and that information about such injuries is relevant and should be included in overall injury and illness data for statistical research. CODE 29 C.F.R. Section 1904.5 became effective January 1, 2002 (NCADV 2002).

Stalking in the Workplace

Although employers are beginning to be aware of the impact of domestic violence in the workplace and OSHA has ruled that injuries and illnesses caused by domestic violence on the workplace premises must be reported, stalking in the workplace has yet to be addressed by many employers. Stalking has been difficult to prosecute in the courts for lack of physical evidence, and often little credence is given to a victim's report of stalking while at work when there is no injury, even though the workplace is a venue where victims are very vulnerable.

Stalking studies indicate that a percentage of stalkers will eventually attack victims. Therefore employers should take proactive measures to ensure the safety of stalking victims in the workplace.

  • A study by the Workplace Violence Research Institute found that 90 percent of corporate security professionals had dealt with three or more incidents of men stalking women in the workplace. Stalking was related to workplace homicides in as many as 15 percent of reported cases (Smock & Kuennen 2002).

Furthermore, the emotional and psychological impact of stalking clearly affects a victim's ability to do his/her job and feel safe at work.

  • The National Violence Against Women Survey reports that 25 percent of all stalking victims report losing time from work due to stalking and 7 percent never return to work (NIJ 1998).

Smock and Kuennen (2002) offer several recommendations for addressing stalking in the workplace, many of which require collaborative efforts on the part of the victim, the advocate, and the employer.

  • Identify the problem. Frequently victims have difficulty assessing the extent of danger: they may be in denial, have difficulty being objective, or be too embarrassed to admit they are being stalked. They may not be aware of the potential for an increase in the frequency of stalking and an escalation of violence. However, victims often have the best sense of the dangerousness of the stalker. Advocates and employers should create safe environments for disclosure.

  • Adopt a safety plan at work. Safety plans can be a "continuum of measures" that range from taking discreet actions without reporting the stalking to maximizing the benefits the security measures offer at the workplace and enlisting the full support of the employer and colleagues.

    • Change entrance and exit routes, mode of transportation to and from work, and parking place.

    • Alter work hours; block the stalker's phone number; change the business phone extension, e-mail, and voicemail.

    • Request an escort to the car by company security guard; change location of work station; have personal identification removed from the company directory.

    • Assume that the stalker may pursue the victim beyond the workplace. Take protective measures at the home and other regular venues.

  • If the stalker is a co-worker. It is important that the victim anticipate the employer's response to the stalking disclosure, particularly the degree of loyalty to the accused party that may bias the response.

    • Educate the employer about the nature and extent of the stalking and be clear about the harm that it causes.

    • Because the employer will launch an investigation after a stalking report is made, transfer the stalker, or take another course of definitive action, it is important that the victim has taken the time with the help of the advocate to anticipate the stalker's response and take protective measures.

  • Protection orders. The victim may petition the court for a protection order that includes prohibiting the stalker from going to the victim's job site or attempting to communicate with the victim or with any other employees at the workplace. A protection order against a co-worker will be more limited in scope since the stalker and victim may share workplace premises.

  • Action that employers should undertake.

    • Learn to recognize stalking behavior, characteristics, and prevalence.

    • Develop written policies about stalking behavior and convey them to the staff.

    • Cultivate an environment of openness and support so that victims of stalking can disclose without feeling embarrassed, threatened by loss of job, or afraid of not being taken seriously.

    • Consider, when necessary, obtaining a "no trespass" judicial order against a stalker who physically appears at the workplace. Note: Some states, such as Rhode Island (H. 5248) and California (C.C.P. 527.8, et. seq) permit employers to take out protection orders against a stalker who has threatened an employee. The order is delivered in the name of the employer, protects all employees, and may be sought without naming the victim.

    • Allow victims of stalking appropriate leave time to: file a police report, meet with an advocate, seek psychological support, go to court, move, etc.

    • Comply with all statutory requirements under OSHA to ensure a safe workplace.

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Chapter 22 Special Topics June 2002
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