A growing body of literature addressing the intersection of interpersonal violence and disability suggests increased risks of violence among individuals with disabilities (Hughes et al., 2012; Mikton & Shakespeare, 2014). Far less attention, however, has been given to violence against individuals with disabilities in the workplace. The present study estimated the prevalence rates of violence among employees living with disabilities in the workplace and then compared it with working-age Canadians without disabilities. Second, we examined the effects of a cluster of workplace characteristics (i.e. employment regularity, workplace size, and work schedule) on different types of violence including verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and physical violence.
This study used data from the Canadian General Social Survey (2016) focusing on work and home. A total of 8,713 working-age adults (aged 25 - 64; 52.7% females; 25.1% living with disabilities) were analyzed. Negative binomial regression models were used to investigate three dependent variables: the frequencies of having experienced verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and physical violence, respectively. Independent variables were disability status, employment regularity, workplace size, and work schedule. We controlled for a cluster of sociodemographic and socioeconomic variables.
First, among employees living with disabilities, approximately 16% reported having experienced verbal abuse at work in the past 12 months, whereas employees without disabilities reported 8%. The prevalence rates of sexual harassment and physical violence were 3.6% and 2.7%, respectively, also higher compared with those without disabilities (1.4% for sexual harassment and 1.6% for physical violence). Second, negative binomial regression analyses show that, employees living with disabilities experienced significantly higher rates of verbal abuse (IRR = 1.95, p = .000), sexual harassment (IRR = 1.79, p = .02), and physical violence (IRR = 1.65, p = .02), respectively. Last, among employees with disabilities, compared with those working on irregular employment terms (i.e. seasonal, casual, or on-call contacts), those working on regular employment terms were more likely to experience a higher incidence rate of sexual harassment. Among employees with disabilities, those whose regular work hours were in the evening or throughout the night were less likely to experience verbal abuse (relative to working during the day or irregular hours), and those with disabilities and with irregular work shifts (relative to working during the day or evening/night times) reported a significantly lower rate of sexual harassment. These effects did not emerge as significant in employees without disabilities.
Conclusions and Implications:
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the prevalence of violence in the lives of individuals with disabilities and prioritizes the development and delivery of appropriate strategies to address the issue (UN General Assembly, 2007). To promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and safety for all in the workplace, preventative strategies, social resources, and policy interventions that address workplace violence among disabled employees should be developed and directly respond to the risks for violence associated with key workplace characteristics. Implications for social work education and social justice advocacy will be discussed.