The Fair Wear Foundation, which promotes better working conditions at garment factories in India and Bangladesh, publishes many stories about the women who work in the factories. One woman profiled by FWF, Ramya, assisted a tailor in Tiruppur, India, before getting a job in a garment factory. The tailor would slap the girls who worked for him, kick them and prick them with his needle. According to Ramya, in the factory where she now works, supervisors shout at her whenever she makes an error or sometimes for no reason at all. When she hands a supervisor a garment for inspection, he holds her hand and strokes it.
Workplace violence against women isn’t a problem reserved for the developing world. Women in Europe, America and other developed areas also experience workplace violence. In the U.S., homicide is the second leading cause of workplace deaths among women. In addition, 31 percent of American women killed at work die as the result of a violent act or assault.In Europe, one-third of EU female workers who experienced sexual harassment said they’d been harassed at work by a boss, co-worker or customer.
Many criminologists and other professionals are working to put an end to workplace violence. Criminologists not only study criminal behavior but also how the judicial system can more effectively fight and prevent crime. For example, a criminologist might analyze how to identify criminally deviant behavior before someone commits a violent act in the workplace. When trying to identify the reasons behind workplace violence against women, criminologists start by examining how violence gets started.
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Inappropriate Behavioral Norms
Many organizations do too little to address inappropriate behavioral norms in the workplace. Civility Partners, a company that provides consulting services designed to create a civil and safe workplace, lists five behaviors that shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace:
- Incivility. Incivility includes rude comments made during meetings, inappropriate outbursts by managers and interruption of a co-worker while he or she is talking. Incivility happens occasionally; it’s human nature. However, it shouldn’t be systemic in workplace culture.
- Bullying.The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that bullying occurs in 25 percent of American workplaces. The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work reports that 6 percent of European workers have been threatened with physical violence by a co-worker.
- Discrimination. About 30 percent of women report experiencing discrimination in the workplace. In Australia, 49 percent of working mothers report that they experience discrimination during pregnancy, during maternity leave and after they return to work.
- Harassment. Harassment includes abusive, hostile or intimidating behavior that interferes with an employee’s ability to work. This behavior can include forwarding or sending inappropriate emails, making abusive remarks about someone’s physical or mental abilities, publishing inappropriate social network posts or telling inappropriate jokes.
- Sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes both quid pro quo expectations, such as expectations that someone will perform a sexual act as a condition of employment, and abusive jokes, inappropriate touching, inappropriate emails or text messages, leering and other harassment of a sexual nature.
In the U.K., the Trade Union Congress works actively against domestic violence because of its profound effects on workers and the workplace. Domestic violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime and as many as two homicides per week. Women are the victims and men are the perpetrators in four out of five domestic violence-related homicides. In many cases, domestic violence spills over into the workplace.
In the U.S., the problem is much more severe. Each day, four or five women are murdered by their partners. Also, 33 percent of women killed in the workplace are murdered by a current or former intimate partner. One in four large American workplaces reports at least one incident of domestic violence in the workplace each year, and domestic violence costs the American economy an estimated $5.8 billion each year.
Making Workplaces Safe for Women
Criminologists work to understand workplace violence against women and to involve the judicial system in protecting female employees. In developing countries like India, advocacy groups like FWF are working to provide training, set up anti-harassment committees and establish violence reporting hotlines.
Unfortunately, until more companies are willing to discuss these issues, women will continue to be victimized. Only 30 percent of American companies, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, even offer training related to violence in the workplace.
In the absence of government or employer intervention, many women are left to fend for themselves when they become victims of violence in the workplace. This inaction leads these women to file lawsuits against their attackers and employers, in hopes that they can gain compensation for their pain. The best way to go about this is to hire a no win, no fee personal injury attorney to file a claim because it eliminates much of the risk involved. The lawyer does not receive payment until the plaintiff is awarded a settlement, which protects these women and helps them to speak out.