Last week’s shooting that took the lives of five workers, including an HR manager and his young intern, is a workplace tragedy that demands attention and action by employers everywhere.
I’ve personally witnessed the disruption and pain an episode of workplace violence creates. I’ve helped companies navigate tense dynamics after shootings and other violent actions and reevaluate their policies to increase employee safety. I’ve also worked proactively with clients to prevent violence in the workplace. It may be impossible to completely eliminate events like the Aurora shooting, but companies can and should take steps to prevent them.
HR organizations should remain on the alert for aggressive behaviors, including threats of violence and bullying, that may easily erupt into tragic consequences for employees. An important aspect of the Aurora shooting, which we’ll address further, was the shooter’s revoked gun permit, rejected conceal carry application and the apparent lack of police follow up to find out if the shooter had surrendered his weapons.
Employers may know they should be prepared, no matter what, to handle workplace violence, but many may wonder how to implement a plan that creates a sense of security for present and future employees
Here are five ways employers can reduce and prevent violence:
- Create a No-Violence Policy. Show the employer’s commitment to protecting workers by instituting a strict policy that’s posted apart from policy manuals. Make clear the employer’s zero-tolerance for any type of act or threat of violence, including bullying. Address on-premises weapons, taking into account the latest state and local concealed carry laws. Train every employee and contractor who comes on premises on the policy. Require them to sign off on it.
- Finalize Your Policy On Concealed Carry Gun Permit Holders. Some employers are still playing catch up to enact policies regulating on-premises storage and handling of weapons held by concealed carry gun permit holders. Be clear with employees where they may store or handle weapons in the workplace if they have a concealed carry permit. If your organization has put a policy in place, review it regularly to make sure it complies with the latest regulations.
- Identify a Crisis Team. Assign a management team to serve as conflict resolution coaches and first responders to violent incidents. Require the team to track complaints of every act of violence, intimidation or threats, and identify potentially dangerous situations before they result into violence. Train the team on how to serve as liaisons to the police if and when violent incidents occur.
- Check Backgrounds. Avoid hiring violent people by asking all applicants for references and insisting that hiring managers conduct face-to-face interviews to gauge demeanor. Allow several interviewers to provide their impressions. Conduct legally-compliant post-offer background checks in every instance and consider conducting personality testing at least for high-pressure and safety-sensitive roles.
- Prepare Your Workforce for Active Shooter Incidents. Review regularly with all workers surviving an active workplace shooting event and techniques for recognizing the behavioral patterns of a human threat before a shooting event occurs.
Let’s pause and honor the memories of those lost in Aurora by taking steps today to reduce the chances of similar tragedy visiting our workplaces.
Gary Savine is a Chicago employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. Prior to starting his firm, Gary served as chief employment counsel to two publicly traded companies, one of which he joined in the aftermath of its own deadly workplace shooting incident that killed five employees. Gary advises employers on all phases of workplace crisis management.