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human resources, labor relations VIOLENCE

human resources, labor relations
Workplace Violence
Rears Its Ugly Head

Domestic Violence
and Workplace Violence

Types of
Workplace Violence

Some Trends in
Prevention Measures

Acronyms and
Workplace Violence

Summary: Some Other
Preventative Measures

Tips on Preventing
Workplace Violence


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button Violence in the Workplace: "A Loaded Gun at the Head of the Employer" - Page 3

ADA, ADEA, OSHA: Acronyms and Workplace Violence

ADA - "The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not insulate emotional or violent outbursts blamed on an impairment", a court ruled. In Hamilton v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 5th Cir., No. 97-10352 the court upheld the firing of an employee who claimed an outburst was caused by post-traumatic stress disorder. It ruled the employee's symptoms were only temporary, and did not constitute a qualified disability.

ADEA - After a worker was demoted and eventually fired for confrontational behavior the employee sued the employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when he found out he was replaced by a younger worker. A court upheld the employer's decision based on the company relying on two doctors' evaluations that the employee could pose a threat to others. (Bush v. Dictaphon Corp., 6th Cir., WL 804524)

OSHA - A company heeded the safety complaint of one worker, but his manager fired him six weeks later for allegedly threatening to "shoot the place up," among other remarks. That's wrongful termination and retaliation, the employee complained in court, but the case was dismissed. (Wilkes v. McBee Systems, Inc., 6th Cir., No. 98-3330)

Some suggestions:

  • Don't let the ADA scare you. Employees may lose ADA protection for acts or potential acts of violence.
  • Don't let even threats said in jest slide. Be cautious and warn employees that threats are unacceptable and acts of violence will be disciplined severely.
  • Find an alternate to termination if possible. (i.e. if a personality conflict is the cause, transfer one worker).
  • Enlist the opinion of a mental health professional. Get a second and third opinion if necessary.

Summary: Some Other Preventative Measures

Here are some suggestions for helping to prevent workplace violence:

  • Implement a "Zero Tolerance Workplace Violence Policy" that strictly prohibits employees, as well as anyone else on company premises or engaged in a company related activity (including customers and visitors), from behaving in a violent or threatening manner. The policy should include reporting and investigation procedures.
  • Implement a strict no-weapons policy.
  • Implement drug and alcohol use policies.
  • Conduct thorough background checks on all job applicants, being sure to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act
  • Continual training to ensure that management can recognize and effectively respond to reports and incidents of workplace violence.
  • Be sure to have consistent and prompt discipline (including termination) of employees who violate safety rules and policies.
  • Conduct routine analysis, evaluation and maintenance of safety features in and around the workplace, possibly including surveillance cameras, metal detectors, alarms, additional lighting, multiple exits, security guards, escorts, and visitor check in procedures.

Workplace violence is on the rise, and will continue to be from now on. It is in all of our best interest to do our best to minimize this threat and be prepared to respond to it. Not only is it good business practice, lowering your risk for liability and lost productivity etc., but it is the smart thing to do.

A safe workplace is something we expect in our society. We all want to work in a safe environment… so it is our obligation as employers and HR professionals to take an active interest and action in this very important issue.

BCG can help you with your policies, procedures or employee violence issues.

Tips on Preventing Workplace Violence Next Page

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