Table of Contents
These definitions are provided for use in the context of this document and should not be construed as legal definitions.
Assault. To attack someone physically or verbally, causing bodily or emotional injury, pain, and/or distress. This might involve the use of a weapon, and includes actions such as hitting, punching, pushing, poking, or kicking.
Dangerous Weapon. A device, instrument, or substance that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury. These include guns, knives, clubs, chemicals, and explosive devices.
Department of Labor Facility. A building, or part thereof, including grounds and parking lots, utilized or under the control of, assigned to, or leased by or on behalf of the Department and/or its components where its employees or contractors are present for the purpose of performing their official duties.
Lifecare.com formerly The Dependent Care Connection (DCC). A professional resource and referral service available to all DOL employees to help employees find providers, information, and resources needed to manage their personal and professional responsibilities. LifeCare.com services are voluntary, confidential, and provided at no cost to employees.
Domestic Violence. A reference to acts of physical and psychological violence, including harassing or intimidating behavior, that occur as part of personal relationships. Included in the concept of domestic violence are spousal abuse, abuse among intimates, as well as sexual and physical abuse of children, elderly, or the infirm.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP). A professional assessment, referral, and short-term counseling service available to all DOL employees and, in some situations, to their family members to help with personal problems such as substance abuse, financial pressures, job stress, and family dysfunction which may be affecting work performance. EAP services are voluntary, confidential, and provided at no cost to the employee.
Functional Area Experts. Functional area experts include: Security Guard, Safety and Health Manager, Employee Assistance Program Representative, Health Unit Representative, Agency Supervisor/Manager, Alternative Dispute Resolution Trained Neutral, Union Representative, Office of the Solicitor Representative, Building Management Representative, and Public Affairs Representative. Depending on the situation, an expert(s), located in the National and ten Regional Offices, may be called upon to assist employees, supervisors, and managers to resolve, defuse, assess, investigate, and/or respond to a violent or potentially violent situation.
Intimidating or Harassing Behavior. Threats or other conduct which in any way create a hostile environment, impair agency operations; or frighten, alarm, or inhibit others. Psychological intimidation or harassment includes making statements which are false, malicious, disparaging, derogatory, rude, disrespectful, abusive, obnoxious, insubordinate, or which have the intent to hurt others' reputations. Physical intimidation or harassment may include holding, impeding or blocking movement, following, stalking, touching, or any other inappropriate physical contact or advances.
Local Authorities. Municipal, county, state, and Federal law enforcement (having local responsibilities); or public safety personnel, such as police, fire fighters, arson investigators, bomb/threat investigators, etc., of the civil jurisdictions where Department facilities are located or acts of violence occur.
Sabotage. An act to destroy, damage, incapacitate, or contaminate property, equipment, supplies, or data (e.g., hard copy files and records, computerized information, etc.); to cause injury, illness, or death to humans; or to interfere with, disrupt, cripple, disable, or hinder the normal operations or missions of the Department of Labor.
Stalking. A malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursuing another person with intent to place that person in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death to him/herself or to a third party.
Threat. Any oral or written expression or gesture that could be interpreted by a reasonable person as conveying an intent to cause physical harm to persons or property. Statements such as, "I'll get him" or "She won't get away with this" could be examples of threatening expressions depending on the facts and circumstances involved.
Workplace Violence. An action (verbal, written, or physical aggression) which is intended to control or cause, or is capable of causing, death or serious bodily injury to oneself or others, or damage to property. Workplace violence includes abusive behavior toward authority, intimidating or harassing behavior, and threats.
Policies, Regulations, and Laws Related to Workplace Violence for Federal Employers
This section outlines some of the more relevant DOL policies, laws, and regulations related to violence in the workplace.
DOL Policy on Violence in the Workplace
The Department's policy is to promote a safe environment for our employees and the visiting public, and to work with our employees to maintain a work environment that is free from violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior. The Department's position in this area is that violence or threats of violence — in all forms — is unacceptable behavior. Violence in any form will not be tolerated and will be dealt with appropriately. Employees at all levels are encouraged to report threatening or intimidating behavior to the appropriate authorities in and outside the Department.
Disciplinary and Adverse Actions:
Increasingly, employee and labor relations staff are being asked to handle cases involving the discipline of employees who threaten or actually commit violent acts in this Department. Since this is often a complex issue, employee and labor relations staff need to know how to analyze various warning signs and behaviors to determine whether an employee is a threat and how to react appropriately. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Employee Health Services Policy Center, has developed guidelines which discusses available disciplinary and non-disciplinary personnel actions, disability retirement, and reasonable accommodation for these types of cases. It also periodically publishes current case law with regard to violence in the workplace and sponsors programs where current case law is discussed.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP):
The Employee Assistance Program is governed by a series of laws and Federal regulations, including Public Law 79-658 (which authorizes Federal agencies to operate programs to promote and maintain employees' physical and mental health) and Public Laws 91-616 and 92-255 (which requires development of appropriate programs to treat and rehabilitate employees with alcohol and/or drug problems.) Confidentiality of client records is governed by the Privacy Act (5 USC 552a) and 42 CFR Part 2. Additional legislation has also given EAP a role under the Drug-Free Workplace Act. The EAP is designed to (1) help employees resolve personal issues — e.g., emotional concerns, alcohol/drug problems, family/relationship and/or financial issues — which may adversely impact job performance or conduct; and (2) help managers and supervisors deal effectively with employees whose job performance, attendance, and/or conduct is not acceptable. The EAP can help by providing professional consultation to the manager/supervisor and/or union steward, and problem assessment, short-term counseling and/or referral to appropriate community treatment resources to the employees. The EAP can help prevent problems by assisting workgroups (as well as individual employees) with such issues as stress and grief, and can also assist victims of threatening or violent behavior by providing counseling and referral for service. Assistance for entire workgroups can also be provided or arranged for by the EAP after a traumatic incident.
Supervisors often want to know if the agency can order a medical/psychiatric examination when an employee demonstrates bizarre, threatening, or violent behavior. Agencies may offer an examination at any time they believe there may be a medical or psychiatric reason for unacceptable behavior. However, they may order a general medical exam only in these situations:
- when the position has medical standards/physical requirements;
- when the agency has an approved ongoing medical evaluation program (such as OSHA and MSHA);
- in continuation of pay/workers' compensation cases to assist in placement efforts; and
- in reduction-in-force actions if the new position to which the employee would have placement rights has different medical standards than the one currently occupied by the employee.
A psychiatric examination (including a psychological assessment) may be ordered only when a general medical examination, properly ordered, indicates no physical explanation for behavior or actions which may affect the safe and efficient work of the individual or others, or when such an examination is specifically required by the position.
Standards of Ethical Conduct:
Threatening or intimidating behavior and violent acts may be viewed as a job conduct problem. In these situations, the Standards of Ethical Conduct may influence sanctions imposed concerning the conduct. The Standards were promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (most recently in February 1993) to ensure that the business of Federal agencies is conducted effectively, objectively, and without improper influence or the appearance of improper influence. The purpose of the Standards is to ensure that government employees are persons of integrity and observe high standards of honesty, impartiality, and behavior.
Federal Property Management Regulations:
These regulations are promulgated by the General Services Administration (GSA). The regulations contain several provisions prohibiting disruptive conduct in Federal facilities. The regulations prohibit the creation of hazards as well as disturbances of all kinds that disrupt the performance of official job duties. It prohibits the possession or use of firearms and other dangerous weapons on a Federally owned or leased facility, including grounds, parking lots, and buildings, or in a government-owned or leased vehicle.
Federal law states in part:
Whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility, or attempts to do so, shall be imprisoned not more than one year or fined, or both. (Certain exceptions apply 18 U.S.C. Section 930(c).) Whoever with intent that a firearm or other dangerous weapon be used in the commission of a crime, knowingly possesses or causes to be present such firearm or dangerous weapon, in a Federal facility, or attempts to do so, shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined, or both.
Any Department of Labor employee who violates prohibitions on possession of weapons in Department facilities or while on official government business will be prosecuted and/or appropriately disciplined (up to and including removal from Federal service). (In addition, DLMS Chapter 1600, dated March 17, 1999, directly addresses possession of firearms by Department of Labor employees, and stipulates that only authorized employees can carry or transport firearms while on official duty.)
Title 41, Chapter 101 Federal Property Management Regulations, of the Code of Federal Regulations also prohibits the use of alcohol and illegal drugs and intoxication at work. Any DOL employee who violates prohibitions on the use of alcohol and illegal drugs and intoxication at work may be appropriately disciplined (up to and including removal from Federal service).
Physical protection and building security requirements are also provided under these regulations.
The role of workers' compensation is significant in workplace violence. Injuries resulting from personal disputes are typically judged compensable, no matter how unusual. But an employee's injury is covered under workers' compensation only if the dispute leading to the injury is related to the employment. In other words, the employee must have been acting within the scope of his or her job when the injury occurred for the injury to be compensable. The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs makes determinations regarding whether injuries are compensable.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a comprehensive anti-discrimination statute that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in private, state, and local government employment, and in the provision of public accommodations, public transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The purposes of the ADA are to provide a clear national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities (physical and mental) and to provide strong, consistent, and enforceable standards prohibiting discrimination against such individuals. For the most part, the Federal government is exempted from the ADA because it is already covered by similar nondiscrimination requirements and additional affirmative employment requirements under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, the ADA effectuated some amendments being made to the Rehabilitation Act.
The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act are relevant to the issue of workplace violence. Employees who threaten or commit acts of violence may seek protection under the laws because of debilitating psychological conditions that may lead to violence, but the laws do not shield employees from the consequences of violent behavior. Employees must be qualified to perform the basic functions of the job, and in most cases violent behavior will be disqualifying. Victims of threatening or violent behavior may also seek protection after being victimized because they develop debilitating psychological conditions that may limit their ability to perform on the job without reasonable accommodation(s).
Regarding employment discrimination and violence, an individual may only be denied employment or discharged where (1) that individual poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others; and (2) the direct threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation without undue hardship. A direct threat of violence is generally understood to mean a specific and significant risk of violence coupled with a high probability of substantial harm. It is determined on a case by case basis.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guarantees an eligible worker the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave in a year to care for one's own serious health condition or to attend to family members' serious health conditions. If a mental or physical injury occurs due to workplace violence, an employee may be eligible to utilize this leave for care of the injury.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standards (OSHA):
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes standards for maintaining safe work environments. The standards require that each employer furnish to each of its employees, a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA investigates and makes determinations about violations to its standards. To prove a violation, OSHA must find that 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
OSHA has developed guidelines to help prevent workplace violence. Under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers can be cited if there is a recognized hazard of workplace violence in their establishments and they do nothing to prevent or abate it.
Agencies may also need to be aware of other laws and regulations that impact their response to violence in the workplace. For example, most states now have stalking laws that prohibit willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person. These stalking laws would prohibit this type of behavior at work as well. Restraining orders and protective court orders are another measure used in the community for preventing further violence, threats, or harassment. They are issued by a court and forbid, for a specified period of time, one party from making contact with another. It is important that appropriate persons in the agency know about these orders so that the individuals can be protected at work, particularly when the two parties work together. Individual states also have laws related to safety and health in the workplace which typically mirror OSHA. Some recognize violence as a workplace hazard and others do not.
Federal Laws Which Govern Crimes, Criminal Procedures, Extortion, and Threats Against Federal
If Federal employees are threatened or killed on the job while acting in their official capacity, there are now stricter, more comprehensive statutes which provide for criminal sanctions under Federal law (Section 1114 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code). Prior to April 24, 1996, only certain officers and employees of the United States were covered under the Department of Justice regulations regarding crimes against Federal employees. This included DOL employees assigned to perform investigative, inspection, or law enforcement functions. In 1994 the statute was amended to include the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) due to the large number of threats and incidents which occurred in that agency. Agencies which were not specifically covered received no protection under Federal law.
On April 24, 1996, the statute was amended in response to the bombing in Oklahoma City. The statute now states:
Whoever kills or attempts to kill any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government...shall be punished.
The categories of Federal officers and employees covered by Section 1114 are also protected while they are engaged in or on account of the performance of their official duties, from a conspiracy to kill...forcible assault, kidnap, murder with intent to impede, intimidate, or retaliate against such officer or employee.
The coverage provided by 18 U.S.C., Section 1114 is important since it serves as the basis for coverage by numerous other statutes including the following:
Section 111 – Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees – the penalty for simple assault under this statute is a fine or imprisonment not more than one year, or both, and in all other cases, a fine or imprisonment not more than three years, or both. This statute covers
" whoever...forcible assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person designated in Section 1114 of this title while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties."
Section 115 – Influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a Federal official by threatening or injuring a family member – penalties are similar to those under Section 111.
Section 844 – Penalties – for bomb and telephone threats (as well as actual damage) are as follows:
- Threats are punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years and/or a fine.
- Malicious damage or attempts to damage by fire or an explosive punishable by imprisonment for not less than five years and not more than 20 years and/or fine.
- Death of a person shall be subject to the death penalty or imprisonment for not less than 20 years or for life, fined under the title or both.
Workplace Violence Resources
The below listed resources from government organizations are also available for your reference and information.
Department of Labor Resources:
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management
Business Operations Center (BOC)
Division of Security
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room S1521
Washington, DC 20210
BOC published a pamphlet: Physical Security Guidance
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management
Human Resources Center (HRC)
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N5460
Washington, DC 20210
HRC published a brochure: Responding to and Preventing Violence in the Workplace.
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management
Safety and Health Center (SHC)
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N1301
Washington, DC 20210
Safety and Health Managers are also located in each of the Department's regional cities. The SHC is responsible for providing for health and employee assistance program services for Department employees nationwide; directories are available on LaborNet. Related training programs are also available upon request as well as a self-study course, Creating a Safe, Healthy Workplace: Your Responsibility.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
800-222-0364 Room S3214
For information or assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
LifeCare.com (formerly the Dependent Care Connection (DCC))
LifeCare.com counselors are available 24 hours a day
via the Internet at https://www.lifecare.com/
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N3107
Washington, DC 20210
General Information: 202-693-1999
OSHA published two pamphlets, Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers and Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs for Late-Night Retail Establishments. Both pamphlets are available on OSHA's website, http://www.osha.gov, and the Government Printing Office.
Women's Bureau (WB)
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Room S3002
Washington, DC 20210
WB published a pamphlet: Domestic Violence: A Workplace Issue
Federal Government Resources
The non-DOL resources are maintained by other public and private organizations. DOL does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information.
Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
4676 Columbia Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998
NIOSH provides an array of training, training material, including videos, and search services. The toll-free number is open 24 hours a day. Upon request, information sheets can be faxed. A three-packet guide, Homicide in the Workplace, is also available.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 7C02
Rockville, MD 20857
In addition to other literature, NIH publishes two free publications on depression (which has been found to be a factor in workplace violence), What To Do If An Employee Is Depressed and Managing Depression in the Workplace.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Office on Women's Health (OWH)
200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 730B
Washington, DC 20201
OWH provides information, brochures, fact sheets, etc. on all matters related to women's health including violence against women
Department of Argiculture (USDA) Graduate School
600 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20024
USDA offers courses for managers, supervisors, and staff related to workplace violence. USDA trainers will tailor training courses to accommodate the specific needs of an agency or office. Courses are offered on-site and at the USDA Graduate School.
Department of Justice
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Bureau of Justice Assistance Clearinghouse (BJAC)
BJAC has available to the public a catalog of National Institute of Justice documents. Many of the documents included in the catalog pertain to workplace violence.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
Employee Relations and Health Services Center
1900 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20415
OPM's Employee Relations and Health Services Center provides advice and assistance to Federal agencies on issues relating to employee relations and Employee Assistance Program policy, including workplace violence, traumatic incidents, reasonable accommodation, and discipline. OPM publications include:
- Dealing with Workplace Violence: A Guide for Agency Planners is intended to assist those who are responsible for establishing workplace violence initiatives at their agencies.
- A Manager's Handbook: Handling Traumatic Events.
- Responding to Domestic Violence: Where Federal Employee Can Find Help provides concise, up-to-date information on domestic violence, with concrete advice for employees who are victims, for friends and co-workers, and for their supervisors.
- Significant Cases: a bi-monthly summary of important decisions of the courts, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
- New Developments in Employee and Labor Relations: a bi-monthly publication that highlights current case law, issues, and events in employee and labor relations.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Resource Guide is available by calling the telephone number listed above.
- Lifecare.come (formerly the Dependent Care Connection or DCC)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics – Safety and Health Statistics
- Dealing with Workplace Violence: A Guide for Agency Planners (PDF)
- Department of Homeland Security – Federal Protective Service
- Justice Department
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service
- National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Responding to Domestic Violence: Where Federal Employees Can Find Help
List of Emergency Numbers
(Fill in Local Telephone Numbers)
- Guard Desk
- Security Office
- Local Law Enforcement Office
- Health Unit
- Employee Assistance Program
- Safety and Health Office
- Human Resources Office
- Rescue Squad
- Fire Department