At the same time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sought public comment on its newly proposed enforcement guidance addressing unlawful workplace harassment (covered by Kingsley & Kingsley here), another federal agency released updated enforcement procedures. Closely linked to workplace harassment, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced in January that it has updated and published its enforcement procedures for occupational exposure to workplace violence.
According to the EEOC, between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment increased from slightly more than one-quarter of all charges annually to over 30% of all charges. In 2015, the EEOC received 27,893 private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment, accounting for more than 31% of the charges filed that year. Furthermore, OSHA asserts that nearly two million American workers report being victims of workplace violence each year. And according to the agency charged with assuring safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women, “unfortunately, many more cases go unreported.”
Last updated in 2011, OSHA released its updated Enforcement Procedures and Scheduling for Occupational Exposure to Workplace Violence, OSHA Directive CPL 02-01-058 (January 10, 2017). The Directive updates OSHA general enforcement policies and procedures for field offices to apply when conducting inspections related to workplace violence. The Directive:
- Explains the steps that should be taken in reviewing incidents of workplace violence when considering whether to initiate an inspection.
- Describes what is required to support the elements of a citation under the General Duty Clause, recognizing that different types of settings pose distinct hazards which have varying abatement solutions.
- Identifies the resources available to OSHA staff conducting inspections and developing citations.
- Highlights how Area Offices should assist employers in addressing the issue of workplace violence.
OSHA defines “workplace violence” as an act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults, or homicide. It can involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors. The Workplace Violence Directive lays out the elements of a General Duty Clause violation, including:
- The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed;
- The hazard was recognized;
- The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and
- There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.
The Directive also lists “known risk factors”, which “shall be considered in determining whether to inspect a worksite, [but which] none of them would individually trigger an inspection.” The risk factors are: contact with the public; exchange of money; delivery of passengers, goods, or services; having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab; working with persons in healthcare, social service, 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, such as drug rehabilitation centers and group homes.
Hostile Work Environment, Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence
If you feel you are subject to a hostile work environment, or have been a victim of workplace harassment or workplace violence, you should first work through your supervisor or human resources department to take the appropriate actions. You should also speak with an experienced California employment lawyer who can review your case and evaluate your options free-of-charge. If you have questions about any of California's employment related laws, feel free to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or contact us via email.