Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is Your Company Prepared For The Threat Of Workplace Violence?

The terribly tragic recent workplace shooting in Troy, Michigan and the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech are dramatic examples of the very real danger of workplace violence. For employers, consider yourselves warned.

In addition to the moral duty to provide a safe work environment, companies also must face the reality of the potential legal and financial damages that can result from failing to take appropriate protective measures.

Although the general rule is that an employer is not liable for the acts of an employee that are outside the scope of employment, a company may still be liable under other theories, such as negligent hiring, supervision or retention. When the liability is related to workplace violence, the potential damages can be enormous and can threaten both the existence of the company and the livelihood of all the people who depend on it.

While there is no way to provide absolute protection against an incident of workplace violence, there are many important steps that your company should take in order to protect fellow employees, the company and its owners.

Take a moment and review your company’s readiness for workplace violence. In doing so, consider the following key areas:
  • Are job applicants, including their employment and any criminal history, adequately screened?
  • Do you have a clearly defined “no tolerance policy” towards violence and weapons?
  • Do your employees know the warning signs of potential violence?
  • Does your HR department know how to investigate alleged incidents of violence?
  • Have your employees been provided with procedures to follow in the event of a violent incident?
  • Does your HR department have a plan for the safest way to handle the termination of a potential hostile or violent employee?
  • Are procedures in place to maintain building security?
  • Do you have procedures to deal with a bomb threat?
These issues and more can all be addressed in policies for your employees and for management. Regardless of the size of your company, a simple and clearly defined set of workplace violence policies can be an important part of your company’s risk management program.

It is too late to plead ignorance to the threat of workplace violence, and once an incident occurs it is too late to create the policies that could have prevented the incident. Protect your company and its employees by planning ahead. As always, contact me if you have questions or if you want to discuss how these important issues.

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