Revisit Policies To Prevent Workplace Violence
The following article was first posted by Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP. It is reposted here with permission.
One of the most important obligations employers have is to provide a safe workplace. Preventing workplace violence is at the top of the list.
In fact, according to the federal OSHA, acts of violence are the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.
Sadly, there have been numerous incidents of workplace violence recently that have involved gun violence.
These incidents have garnered significant media attention.
Regardless of any employer’s personal views on how society should address gun violence, taking steps to prevent any form of violence in the workplace—whether involving guns or not—is not debatable.
It is not only a moral obligation, but also a legal one as both federal and Connecticut laws require every employer to provide a safe workplace.
Now is a good time for every employer to revisit their workplace policies and practices regarding workplace violence.
Here is checklist of some critical steps that employers should consider.
Have a Written Policy
Every employer should have a written policy stating that workplace violence will not be tolerated.
The policy should properly define what constitutes the “workplace” (e.g., parking lots, business trips, etc.) and provide diverse examples of violent behavior, including physical and verbal acts of violence (e.g., assault, threats, verbal harassment, etc.).
The policy should prohibit acts of workplace violence from any source including employees, customers/clients, vendors/contractors, and visitors.
And the policy should encourage employees to report their concerns utilizing a clear process for doing so and with assurance that employees will not be subject to retaliation.
Investigate Claims of Violence
Employers must promptly and thoroughly investigate concerns or incidents of workplace violence, and in some cases, contact local authorities.
Consider Criminal Background Checks For New Hires
Employers should strongly consider conducting criminal background checks for new hires.
In doing so, employers must be mindful that the EEOC discourages employers from being overly aggressive in banning applicants with a criminal history.
Instead, the EEOC encourages employers to make an individualized assessment of all the facts and circumstances in making a hiring decision.
Ban Weapons in the Workplace
Employers have a right in Connecticut to ban weapons in the workplace.
Review Workplace Practices and Physical Security Measures
Consider having an alarm system and specific policies and practices surrounding building access (e.g., electronic badges, tracking visitors, limiting workplace access for non-employees, use of surveillance cameras, communication system for emergencies, and well-lit perimeter and parking areas).
Recognize Warning Signs
Be aware of some recognized warning signs (e.g., employees who excessively discuss weapons, appear despondent, and/or express anger), but do not prejudge someone without an adequate basis.
Employee Assistance Provider
Many employees are under a great deal of stress for a variety of reasons.
Referring an employee to an EAP could be helpful in promoting employee mental health and wellness and addressing personal issues that could impact the workplace.
Provide training to key managers on the Company’s policy and tips for spotting and addressing incidents of workplace violence.
Terminating a Potentially Volatile Employee
Employers who have a reasonable basis to believe that an employee may become violent should take extra security precautions, such as having a security firm present or putting local authorities on notice.
In some cases, it may be prudent to conduct an employee meeting by video or phone.
While these points provide common guidance, each employer must evaluate their specific circumstances in determining the steps they should take to provide a safe workplace.
To this end, it may be helpful to establish a committee to provide reasonable recommendations.
About the author: Nick Zaino is a partner at Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP and Business Services Group co-practice group leader. His practice focuses on labor and employment law.
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