Government employees see higher rates of workplace violence

Federal report compares incidents of workplace violence in the government, private sectors


According to a report recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average annual rate of workplace violence perpetrated against government (local, county, state, and federal) employees in 2011 was three times greater than that of workers in the private sector.

Overall, however, the report found that the average annual rate of workplace violence against government workers declined by 82 percent from 1994 to 2011, which is 10 percent more than the decline seen in the private sector (72 percent) during that same time period.

The report found that the higher rates of workplace violence in the government sector were “partly due” to the high rates of workplace violence amongst law enforcement and security employees, which accounted for over half of the violence committed against government workers in the report. From 2002 to 2011, about 56 percent of workplace violence against government employees occurred against those who work in law enforcement and security occupations, according to the report.

Even when excluding law enforcement and security employees, however, violence against government workers in 2011 was still higher (8.7 victimizations per 1,000 employees) than in the private sector (4.7 per 1,000). With the exception of transportation, government employees saw greater rates of workplace violence for each measured occupation in the report including; medical, mental health, teaching, retail sales, and other various jobs.  

In stark contrast to incidents of workplace violence, however, incidents of workplace homicide are much greater in the private sector than in the government. In 2011, the report found that there were 367 workplace homicides in the private sector, compared to 90 homicides of government employees. From 1993 to 2002, workplace homicides declined substantially in both the public sector (33 percent) and private sector (44 percent).

Some of the report’s other highlights include:

  • From 2002 to 2011, the average annual rate of simple assaults in the workplace against government employees (18.9 per 1,000) was more than three times that of private sector employees (4.6 per 1,000).
  • Serious violent crime accounted for a larger percentage of workplace violence against private sector employees (25 percent) than government employees (15 percent).
  • From 2002 to 2011, about 96 percent of workplace violence against government employees was against state, county and local employees, who made up 81 percent of the total government workforce.
  • Among government employees, males (68 percent) were more likely than females (38 percent) to face a stranger during an incident of workplace violence.
  • From 2002 to 2011, government employees (12 percent) were less likely than private sector workers (20 percent) to face an offender with a weapon during an incident of workplace violence.

To download a copy of the full report, visit http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4615.