Today, the White House released the first-ever U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. The plan lays out a roadmap for a whole-of-government effort to prevent and address gender-based violence in the United States. One of the groundbreaking aspects of this plan is that it reflects principles from the International Labor Organization’s Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, recognizing gender-based violence and harassment in the “world of work,” which includes not only traditional workplaces but anywhere workers are paid, in places workers take rest breaks, in work-related training, and through work-related communications.
For decades, workers have been sounding the alarm about unchecked and widespread harassment, sexual assault, rape and other forms of violence rooted in gender inequality. Anywhere from 25% to 85% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, yet most cases are never reported formally. As the National Plan highlights, workers in certain sectors such as trucking, construction, agriculture and healthcare, as well as restaurant, janitorial and domestic workers, face greater risks of experiencing gender-based violence and harassment because of occupational segregation, isolation, and precarity of employment, among other things, making swift action all the more urgent. Additionally, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence that take place outside of the workplace can impact the world of work, affecting workplace safety and a survivor’s work performance, attendance, or ability to find or maintain employment.
To address these issues and more, here are five of the key ways that the Department of Labor and other federal agencies will work together to prevent and address gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, in the world of work:
- Shift workplace norms and practices to prevent gender-based violence and support employees impacted by it.
- Establish the federal government as a model employer for preventing and responding to gender-based violence in the workplace.
- Build the capacity of employers, workplaces, unions and worker organizations to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, particularly in industries, occupations, and work arrangements in which workers are more likely to experience it.
- Improve gender-based violence survivors’ economic security through access to good jobs with family-sustaining wages, benefits and workplace protections, as well as support for business entrepreneurship.
- Increase access to and awareness of worker protections and policies to help survivors or those at risk of gender-based violence keep their job and maintain their economic security.
The Women’s Bureau is proud to support the implementation of this plan. We will convene industry stakeholders, unions, survivors and experts to compile sector-specific good practices and guidance for employers to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Some of this work has already begun through our partnership with the ILO Office for the United States and Canada, in conjunction with the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Additionally, the Women’s Bureau recently announced the availability of funding under its Fostering Access, Rights, and Equity (FARE) Grant Program to support non-profit organizations’ efforts to address gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work. Grant recipients will build awareness; connect women to federal and state workplace rights and benefits as needed, reasonable, and/or available; and implement worker and survivor-driven strategies to shift workplace norms.
To make the vision of the national plan a reality— for the United States to be a place where all people live free from gender-based violence in all aspects of their lives—it will take more than the government to act. A whole-of-society approach centering survivor voices is necessary. Learn more about the plan.
Wendy Chun-Hoon is the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. Follow the Women’s Bureau on Twitter at @WB_DOL.