Overview: Violence in the workplace can consist of anything from a small altercation between two disputing employees, to a workplace shooting, to a full-blown terrorist act. As part of an overall risk management plan, employers should be on the guard to protect workers from all acts of violence in the workplace.
There are many different forms of workplace violence. The FBI classifies workplace violence into four groups:
In the third type, before a situation even gets to the level of violence, there will likely be signs of a problem, such as workplace bullying. HR should address all threats and all signs of workplace bullying before an act of violence occurs. For all types of violence, policies and procedures should be in place that will tell employees how to act and how to handle violence. Employees who work in areas where violence is more likely to occur, such as convenience stores where robberies are more common, should be trained in the proper procedures.
Many employers choose to have zero tolerance policies that state any act of violence, no matter how minor, is immediate grounds for termination. Others choose to offer counseling or other discipline procedures. Whatever the method of prevention, though, it is important to do something to prevent and handle violence. While violence itself is not an OSHA regulated standard, some states do have laws on the topic, and OSHA will fine employers who have an obviously unsafe environment as the result of violence under the General Duty Clause.
Trends: Domestic violence protections have increased in some states over recent years, and several states have laws that will allow an employer to take out a temporary restraining order on behalf of an employee if there is a threat that the domestic violence could be perpetrated in the workplace.
Author: Ashley Shaw, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect discipline concerns regarding forthcoming employee social media privacy law.
Updated guidance to include information on a Mississippi Supreme Court case addressing wrongful discharge for the storage of a firearm in a locked vehicle.
Revised Guidance to incorporate additional advice on workplace violence and to address management response teams and active shooter events.
HR guidance on preventing and responding to violence in the workplace. Advice on creating plans and polices that prevent or limit workplace violence.