First responders in West, Texas*. Sales clerks in the
stores near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Staff of the District
Attorney's office in Kaufman County, Texas. Teachers and administration at
Sandy Hook Elementary. Ticket-takers and popcorn-scoopers at the Century 16
movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
*Although the explosion at West Fertilizer
Company appears to have been an industrial accident, as of this morning,
law enforcement authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a crime or
Employers, do you have a workplace violence plan in
place? Of course, it may not stop a terrorist, but it should prevent some
incidents and save lives in the event of a crisis. Here is what it should
contain at a minimum:
In addition, and with
all due respect to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which
doesn't want employers to do much in the way of criminal background screening,
DO screen job applicants or offerees for criminal convictions. You can still
address each conviction on a case-by-case basis, but don't be afraid to reject
a candidate with a history of violent crime.
Some time ago, I did a presentation with a psychiatrist
on preventing workplace violence. We didn't talk about terrorism but did talk
about more "garden-variety" types of violence in the workplace, such
as "going postal" or domestic violence that carries over into the
According to the psychiatrist, an individual who may be
prone to violence often has one or more of the following characteristics:
Some warning signs that you and your employees can be
trained to look for:
As any employer knows, there are federal and state laws
making it more difficult to take effective steps in dealing with an employee
who appears to be a threat. Probably the most significant limitation that
applies to most employers is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even so, a
safe workplace is an "essential function of the job," and you have a
right to take reasonable measures to ensure that your employees are safe.
Here are some effective crisis prevention steps that
should not create a problem under the ADA:
In my next article, I'll discuss some of the psychiatrist's
recommendations on how to deal with an "at-risk" employee.
Visit the Employment and
Labor Law Insider for additional insights from Robin Shea, a partner with the national labor and
employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP.
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