The goal of the Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response (WPVHPR) Program is to facilitate USDA, APHIS and FAS, policies that every customer and employee be treated fairly and equitably, with dignity and respect. The policy applies not only to how you as an employee should act, but also to how you deserve to be treated by others. There is no tolerance for harassing, threatening, or violent behaviors at APHIS.
According to current USDA Anti-Harassment Policy Statement (April 29, 2021), “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to creating and maintaining a diverse, and inclusive workforce free of discriminatory harassment. This policy applies to USDA employees in their working relationship with Federal employees, non-Federal employees, and the public. It also applies to contractors and individuals employed under other formal agreements with USDA.”
As per Agency Directive APHIS 4340.1, Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program (October 26, 2020), “Promoting and maintaining a safe, harassment-free work environment is essential to the welfare of all employees and to their ability to carry out the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service mission.” This Directive provides a consistent and effective for responding to incidents of workplace violence, or its potential occurrence, as well as to allegations of harassment.
While it is everyone's responsibility to be alert and to report potential workplace violence problems; supervisors and managers have added responsibilities for prevention, assessment, reporting, and response.
APHIS and FAS employees who witness intimidating, threatening, and/or harassing behavior within the workplace are advised to immediately report those incidents to their supervisor and the Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator.
To report a WPV incident, please contact:
The WPV Hotline phone number and e-mail are actively monitored.
If you call the WPV Hotline and the WPV Coordinator is not able to answer immediately, please leave a voicemail. If you do not leave a voicemail, we might not know who to contact.
Move to a safe location and dial 911.
A Workplace Violence Assessment is an administrative evaluation of the reported threat(s) itself.
The Assessment determines:
Once this information is obtained, Coordinators identify the appropriate measures to quickly mitigate the risk and reduce any potential for a WPV situation.
Under APHIS 4340.1, Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program, Workplace violence is defined, “As any act of physical violence, threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, and other threatening, disruptive behavior occurring at the work site.”
Workplace violence is manifested in four types of situations:
Although co-worker on co-worker violence occurs far less frequently, it is also the most preventable. Especially when employees can detect the warning signs and appropriately manage the situation.
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
Harassment is defined as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”
Please see the following links for more information.
Harassment becomes unlawful when “Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment,” or “The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”
Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Unlawful harassing conduct may include, but not limited to:
Harassment and/or harassing behaviors can be oral, visual, written, physical, or electronic.
Harassment can occur through electronic communications, including social media, other forms of communication, or in person.
Harassing behaviors may include, but not limited to:
Activities or actions undertaken in support of proper government business purposes, such as training, assignments of work related to the duties and responsibilities of the employee, and performance counseling.
Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of harassment. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be considered intimidating, hostile, or offensive to a reasonable person.
Behavior that is rude, ignorant, abrasive, or unkind, but does not adversely affect the work environment as described in APHIS 4340.1, Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program (October 26, 2020), is not considered harassment.
It is important to note that the WPV Assessment does not determine if a working environment is, in fact, hostile.
The WPV Assessment determines:
If there are no violent activities involved, then hostile working environment complaints are addressed as employee misconduct. Please see the Administrative Investigations and Compliance Branch (AICB)
In accordance with APHIS 4340.1, Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program; determining whether behavior deemed harassment has created a hostile work environment, “employees and staff must examine all the circumstances related to the charge, including:
No federal law directly addresses bullying. In some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it is based on race, national origin, color, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), age, disability, or religion.
Bullying is generally defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance; and uses coercion, hurtful teasing, force, threats, and/or abuse, to aggressively dominate or intimidate a person.
The behavior is oftentimes repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Bullying behaviors can include, but not limited to:
No. In accordance with Agency Directive APHIS 4340.1 Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program, “Employees who witness incidents of intimidating or threatening behavior should immediately report these incidents to their supervisor and the Workplace Violence & Harassment Prevention & Response Program Coordinator. They should also submit the APHIS Form 259-R, Workplace Incident Report.”
We prioritize complaints based on severity of complaint. We try to reach out to Complainants as soon as reasonably possible. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the WPV Hotline or the WPV Coordinators directly.
A Coordinator and/or AICB Investigator will contact you regarding your complaint.
Yes. APHIS prohibits any retaliation against an employee who reports a concern about workplace violence and harassment or assists in any inquiry about such a report. This policy applies to all employees in their working relationships. Any suspected retaliatory response should be reported immediately and both promptly investigated and remedied in accordance with APHIS 4340.1, Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Program
No. However, we can inform you when AICB has completed its WPV Assessment, and refer you to the appropriate Labor Management Employee Relations Branch (LMERB) Team for additional information.
Yes. Please contact us so we can assist in coordinating with Emergency Management, Safety, and Security Division (EMSSD).
No, the WPVHPR cannot; however Emergency Management, Safety, and Security Division (EMSSD) may be able to provide guidance. Please call the WPVHPR for more information.
Yes. Your cooperation during a WPV Assessment Inquiry is greatly appreciated in order for Coordinators and Investigators to make an accurate threat assessment.
Per DR-4070-735-001, Employee Responsibilities and Conduct, subpart C. Cooperation with USDA Investigations, “Every employee is required to provide all information he or she possesses to authorized representatives of USDA when called upon, if the inquiry relates to official matters and the information is obtained in the course of employment or as a result of relationships incident to such employment. Such activities include participating in interviews requested by authorized representatives of USDA and furnishing signed, sworn/affirmed statements to the authorized representatives. Failure to respond to requests for information, including the furnishing of signed sworn/affirmed statements in a timely manner, or failure to appear as a witness in official proceedings may result in disciplinary action. (Nothing set forth herein shall be deemed to infringe upon an employee's right to invoke the protection of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution with respect to self-incrimination in a criminal investigation or for a bargaining unit employee to request union representation in accordance with his or her rights under 5 USC §7114 (a)(2)(B) – Weingarten Rights.)”
In addition, 4340.1 states, “All employees are obligated to provide supportive information they possess to investigators or supervisors if the inquiry relates to official matters. This shall include promptly providing a signed, sworn statement, or providing other evidence related to the complaint.”