from The Pueblo Chieftain
Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council publishes a tip sheet on workplace violence, including ways to handle fired employees who make threatening statements.
Portions of the report follows:
What is workplace violence?
Verbal threats, physical altercations, bullying, domestic violence, vandalism, arson, rape, sabotage and/or the use of weapons. It involves behavior on the part of the employee that demonstrates a loss of control and that poses a threat to the safety of co-workers, customers and the public.
What should an organization do if it suspects that an employee is behaving violently?
An investigation should be conducted. For larger firms, this can be handled by members of the employer’s emergency response team trained in conducting an investigation. Mountain States Employers Council can provide assistance in conducting an investigation or conduct an investigation.
Once all witnesses to the violence or threat of violence have been interviewed, the investigator must discuss the matter with the person accused of the violent behavior. In some instances, it may be appropriate to place the individual on administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
If the employer determines that the behavior is in violation of the policy, the employer should take immediate corrective action up to and including termination.
How should businesses prepare for a potentially violent situation?
Prior to any threats of violence, the employer should create a policy prohibiting violence and possession of weapons in the workplace. The policy should define violence broadly to include any behavior that in management’s opinion is threatening, intimidating, violent or inappropriate.
The policy should identify the employer’s internal procedures for responding to violations and let employees know that they can directly access law enforcement, security and emergency services if they perceive a threat.
The employer also may wish to organize an emergency response team. The team, typically led by the senior human resources person, might also include staff who are in charge of the facility and/or anyone who handles health and safety issues. The employer or the team should meet and establish an emergency response pan.
What should we do if we know that an employee has a firearm on company premises?
Inform employees in your handbook that you prohibit possession of weapons in the workplace.
You may also wish to add language in the handbook allowing you to conduct workplace searches and seizures based upon reasonable suspicion that an employee possesses a weapon in violation of the policy.
If you suspect that an employee has a weapon on the premises, you will want to involve a trained law enforcement official. Do not handle the firearm yourself. Call the police department and coordinate the search with them when you have concerns about possible weapons being at the work site.
What should we do if an employee who is terminated threatens violent action against the company or toward another employee?
If law enforcement is not already involved, inform them of the threat. Inform the former employee that due to their conduct they are not to return to the employer’s property for any reason and that law enforcement will be made aware of the threat. Explain that employer property includes parking lots, outlying buildings and remote work sites. Make them aware that if they do return, law enforcement will be contacted immediately.
Alert anyone who may have been specifically mentioned in the threat. Develop a plan of action if the individual returns to the workplace. If you do not have professionally trained security staff, you may want to contact law enforcement for assistance.
Make sure that exits to the building are secured from unauthorized entry and alert employees as to what to do should they see the person in question, i.e., contact security or emergency services directly.
Are there any warning signs that precede a violent event to watch for?
Look for signs of “attack” behavior. This might include threats, intimidation, bullying, or any other behavior where the employee is making reference to “getting even” or harming another. Train your employees and supervisors to take all threats seriously.
How should the company handle references for an employee terminated for violence?
Colorado law currently provides immunity from suit to any employer that provides information about a current or former employee’s job history or job performances to a prospective employer.
There currently is no case law requiring employers to provide references. For fear of defamation and other lawsuits, many employers only provide verifications of the employee’s name, position held and dates of employment. Employers who have established such a practice should follow that practice consistently. Employers considering going outside their policies to provide a reference should consult with legal counsel first.
Employers who provide references, however, should be aware that courts have held that once employers undertake to provide a reference they have a duty to provide a truthful and complete reference. Employers who give false information or who omit negative information, have, in some cases, been held liable for negligent misrepresentation or negligent referencing.
Are You a Target of Workplace Bullying?
Download Our Bestselling Resource:
What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know.
Learn how to avoid the traps, stop bullies in their tracks and get your life back!
I thought I was going crazy but now understand what was happening… Will be reading it a few times more yet… I would recomend the book for sure. Thanking you so much for the book! Its given me strength again. - Geoff