Violence and Harassment In The Workplace:
What Every Company Should Know
- A "hostile" workplace is any work environment where violence, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and other abusive behaviors interfere with the ability of employees to perform their jobs.
- A 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson) said companies must avoid a hostile workplace, while a 1998 decision (Faragher v. City of Boca Raton) requires companies to prevent and not simply react to a hostile workplace. Another 1998 decision (Booker v. Budget Rent-A-Car) was the first-ever decision to include "racial harassment" as an element of a hostile workplace, stating that employers must take steps to prevent racially hostile workplace claims.
- An average of 2 million acts of violence occur in the U.S. workplace every year.
- Workplace violence costs U.S. businesses about $36 billion a year, including medical care, counseling, and lawsuits by victims, the survivors of victims, and employees who are traumatized by witnessing the violence. The most common bases for lawsuits are "negligent hiring" or "negligent retention" of employees who become violent.
- Although the U.S. Postal Service has a bad reputation when it comes to workplace violence, only 3.1 percent of non-fatal incidents at work occur within federal government agencies, while 56.1 percent occur in the private sector.
- Homicide is the number-one cause of death for women at work and the number-two cause of death for men at work. Yearly averages of workplace violence include 1,000 homicides, 1,480,000 simple assaults, 395,000 aggravated assaults, 83,700 robberies, and 50,500 rapes and sexual assaults.
- Of women who are murdered at work, four out of five are killed by someone other than their current or former spouse or partner.
- Domestic violence spills into the workplace and puts everyone at risk. In non-fatal attacks on women at work, 49.4 percent of the perpetrators are known to the victims, with 46.2% being friends or acquaintances, 2.2 percent being current or former spouses or partners, and 1 percent being relatives.
- In cases of domestic violence, perpetrators may target not only their current or former spouse or partner, but also coworkers, managers, and employees.
- Sexual harassment can cost companies plenty. In 1998, Mitsubishi Motors agreed to pay a landmark $34 million to settle claims that female autoworkers were habitually harassed, and at TWA three employees filed a $120-million lawsuit, with the EEOC filing a separate lawsuit against the airline.
- In addition to physical risks and financial costs, a hostile workplace hurts a company's performance, productivity, image, and reputation.
- A hostile workplace decreases employee morale and teamwork and increases turnover and other problems.
- A hostile workplace makes it harder to keep employees, as well as to attract quality new hires.
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© Copyright, 1999, 2003, Lynne McClure, Ph.D.