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Several days ago a man shot a former co-worker in the head five times, killing him, before being killed himself by police. A number of bystanders were wounded during the exchange of gunfire that took place in front of the Empire State Building in New York City during the morning rush hour. Apparently, the victim had previously filed a complaint against his assailant which had said he believed the man would try to kill him. The shooter, a clothing designer, had been fired from his job about a year ago and is said to have been upset that the man he shot had not sold enough of his designs. On the heels of a shooting spree during a Batman movie showing in Colorado late last month and in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin earlier this month, we continue to be reminded of the possibility of extreme violence erupting during such every day activities as seeing a movie, attending religious services and going to work.
Not every tragedy can be prevented. However, risks can be reduced and sometimes the extent of a tragedy can be minimized. Here are some basic steps employers can take to reduce the risk of violence in their workplace:
Your workplace violence policy should let employees know of your commitment to providing a safe and intimidation-free workplace and that violent or harassing behaviors will not be tolerated. It should prohibit weapons in the workplace and give examples of prohibited behaviors (such as shoving, pushing, threats of violence, harassing phone calls or emails, arson, etc.) The policy should require employees who experience or witness violence or threats of violence to report them immediately. Always provide more than one reporting avenue in case one person is not available or in case the employee is uncomfortable reporting the problem to that individual.
It should be noted that a number of states have recently instituted laws whereby employers may not prohibit firearms and ammunition from being on their property, i.e. if they are locked in an employee’s vehicle in the parking lot, so check your state law. That said, you do have the right to prohibit guns or other weapons from entering the actual work space.
Note: Subscribers to HRSentry may access workplace violence policy samples.