According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Workplace violence can occur because of discrimination. Discrimination comes in many forms but commonly includes being treated unfairly or poorly because of your race, sex, religion, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. If a worker discriminates against another employee by acting violently, he would then be committing both workplace violence and workplace discrimination.
Women have been accomplishing more and more in the workplace and now account for almost half of the total U.S. workforce. Despite this, power imbalances between genders still exist. Women are more likely to be victims of workplace violence and sexual harassment, which is a form of workplace discrimination. A 2009 study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that women in supervisory positions were more likely to be experience sexual harassment. This study suggests sexual harassment is actually more about controlling and dominating women and less about sexual desires.
Sexual Orientation and Identity
Gay and transgender employees experience high workplace discrimination and violence, according to a 2007 publication by the University of California. The studies showed that 15 to 43 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual respondents had experienced some kind of discrimination at work and seven to 41 percent had been the victims of workplace violence. Up to 57 percent of transgendered workers also reported workplace discrimination. Evidence such as this shows that discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation and identity is still highly prevalent in today’s workforce and can often lead to violence.
Hostilities and prejudices often continue due to lack of education and understanding. Therefore it’s important for employers to offer diversity trainings that inform staff about the importance of equality and the profitability of diversity. The demographic of the United States is quickly changing and without a diverse workforce, companies will lose out on market share and talented employees. Equality starts with the leadership, so companies should employ a diverse management team of different genders, ages, races and so on. Employers should also showcase examples of employees from all walks of life succeeding at their company.
Your employer is required by law to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace. So if you experience workplace discrimination, it’s important to report the incident to your employer quickly. Keep thorough personal records of exactly when and where the incident happened and continue to document all interactions with the perpetrator in the future. If your employer is discriminating against you, then file a charge of discrimination with the nearest U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office. If any offense is violent, whether from a coworker or employer, contact the police immediately.
- Catalyst: U.S. Women in Business
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Workplace Violence
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Sexual Harassment Charges
- American Sociological Association: 2009 Press Release
- University of California: Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination
- U.S. Census Bureau: An Older and More Diverse Nation by Midcentury
Sydney Neely has worked in the education arena for more than 10 years, teaching general education, the arts, communication and finance. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Arizona State University. Neely also holds several state and federal financial licenses in life insurance and investments (Series 6 and 63).