Discrimination, Workplace Violence News Trends Skyrocket

Discrimination and workplace violence led disturbing trends in 2016, with discrimination stories showing a four-fold increase over 2015 and stories of workplace violence spiking, in part due to several mass casualty events attributed to terror-related activities. ICM included its study stories of terror attacks in places like Orlando, Florida, Nice, France and Brussels, Belgium because of heavy media coverage and the impact on the businesses, churches and organizations where the attacks took place.


Discrimination stories skyrocketed, especially in the U.S., to 20.61% of stories tracked. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 study, nearly half of Americans surveyed say that race relations are generally bad. Just 19% said that race relations were improving, while four-in-ten said they were getting worse. Race relations in the U.S. suffered during the year, with reports of race-related violence by police and others. Papa John’s Pizza made headlines when a Denver-area employee printed a racial slur on a pizza box ‘as a joke.’ Papa John’s also found itself in the news when a Louisville, Ky., area employee used a racial slur about an Asian customer. Another restaurant chain, Noodles & Co., suffered when an employee refused to serve police officers in uniform.

In North Carolina, the so-called “bathroom bill” cost the state millions of dollars and thousands of potential new jobs when businesses spoke out against the law, called off planned expansions or canceled events. The NBA moved its 2017 all-star basketball game out of the state, and the NCAA relocated seven championship games that had been scheduled there. PayPal canceled a planned expansion that would have created an estimated 1,300 new jobs and $285 million economic impact. Deutsche Bank halted a planned expansion that would have employed 250. Entertainers and the film industry also boycotted the state, canceling concerts and film projects. Legislators’ attempt to repeal the controversial law failed in December.

Workplace Violence

ICM noted a significant increase in workplace violence stories in 2016, to 5.91% of stories tracked, up from less than one-half of one percent the previous year. Part of the increase is attributable to ICM’s addition of more English-language news outlets covered. But several high-profile stories, including mass shootings in Orlando, Florida and terror attacks in Nice, France and Brussels, Belgium, also accounted for some of the dramatic increase in news coverage for acts of violence.  Thirty-one people were killed and hundreds injured in Brussels in March in an ISIS-inspired attack. Fifty people died in a terror-inspired mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June. At least 84 people were killed and dozens more injured when a truck deliberately drove into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, on July 14.

Is Your Business at Risk for a Crisis?

To learn more about the industries in the news in 2016 and the kinds of crises that are most likely to affect your organization, download ICM’s free annual crisis report.  Contact us today to get started on your crisis communication plan.