New policies ordered on federal workplace violence

February 11, 2013
Berry_official_portrait

Federal agencies have been told to produce within four months more comprehensive policies for addressing domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in their workplaces.

“As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should act as a model in responding to the effects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace,” said guidance accompanying a memo issued Friday by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry.

“Some agencies have already taken steps to address these issues. By building on these efforts, the Federal Government can further address the effects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking on its workforce, promoting the health and safety of its employees and improving the quality of its service to the public,” it says.

The guidance describes what is expected of agencies in carrying out a 2012 White House memo, based on recommendations of an interagency working group. It covers policies on granting employees time off or allowing flexible working schedules, confidentiality concerns, physical security in the workplace, employee assistance program services, disciplinary actions against employees who are perpetrators, and similar issues.

To help agencies craft their programs, OPM and will host a series of webinars on topics including “the impact of domestic and sexual violence on the workplace, the role of employers when responding to domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking in the workplace, and the critical components of a workplace response,” the memo said.

Agencies are to issue final policies within six months of submitting their draft plans to OPM for review.

A report last September by the Merit Systems Protection Board, based on a 2010 survey, found that 13 percent of federal employees had observed an incident of workplace violence over the preceding two years. The survey defined workplace violence as encompassing physical assault, threat of assault, harassment, intimidation or bullying.

The “vast majority” of such acts observed in the federal workplace were perpetrated by current or former employees or by customers of the agency, it said, and a quarter of the incidents resulted in either physical injury or damage to or loss of property.

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Josh Hicks · February 11, 2013