Workplace Violence Encompasses More than You Think

The Insider has published numerous articles on serious incidents in the workplace, often centered around a shooting or someone getting stabbed or assaulted. Those types of incidents make up what most people consider workplace violence. In reality, the definition of workplace violence goes way beyond an acute event that happens in a short timeframe and ends quickly.

Many people are getting tired of reading about Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Bill Cosby and all the other famous people in the latest rash of sexual impropriety accusations. But these accusations, in many cases, can actually be described as workplace violence incidents.

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The broad definition of workplace violence, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening or disruptive behavior that occurs at a worksite.” It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults to murder. It can involve employees, clients, customers or visitors.

Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment: All Are Forms of Workplace Violence.

Harassment includes:

  • Offensive behavior based on stereotypes about people with certain protected characteristics.
  • Behavior intended to cause discomfort or humiliation because of a protected characteristic.
  • Any expression of dislike or hatred for the group to which the victim belongs, based on a protected characteristic

Protected characteristics include age, race, creed, color, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, marital status, domestic violence victim status, gender identity and criminal history. Sexual harassment is any unwanted verbal or physical advance, sexually explicit or derogatory statement, or sexually discriminatory remark that is offensive to the recipient, or that interferes with his or her job performance. This includes:

  • Any type of bias (different treatment) on the basis of sex.
  • Sex stereotyping.
  • Discrimination due to gender identity or the status or the status of being transgender.
  • Discrimination due to pregnancy.

Sexual harassment may include:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
  • When a person in authority offers to trade job benefits for sexual favors, like a promotion or the threat of being fired unless the victim gives in to having sex.

Bullying is unwanted, recurring aggressiveness that causes psychological and physical harm, and creates a psychological power imbalance between the bully and the targets. There are 3 concepts central to defining workplace bullying:

  • Bullying must be repeated. It does not refer to a single incident or someone having a bad day.
  • Bullying causes psychological and physical harm to targets and witnesses.
  • Bullying is about psychological power. Over time, as long as the target remains silent, the bully will continue to push, and the abuse will usually escalate.

It’s interesting to note that harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal in every state, but workplace bullying is illegal in only four states. In reality, though, these behaviors are against policy in virtually every company in the United States and are grounds for termination. It is the responsibility of every employee to contribute to a workplace free of violence and, like with national security, if you see (or hear) something, say something.

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