Over the years, Georgia Employers’ Association has received some very good questions about issues that are always relevant to employers. From time to time, we’ll publish one (or a couple) of these questions in our blog.
All too often we hear or read about violence in the workplace. In many cases the perpetrator had an argument with his supervisor or another employee prior to the incident. Is there anything we can do to minimize the risk of workplace violence?
Yes, but obviously there are no guarantees. Employers should have a workplace violence prevention program that clearly prohibits all types of violence. Even before implementing a workplace violence program, employers should screen and do background checks of all new hires. Employers may be liable under the concept of negligent hiring, negligent supervision (where an employee harms another because the employer failed to train or supervise the employee properly) or negligent retention (where the employer continues to keep the person employed even though the employer is aware the employee is unfit to do the job or could harm other employees.)
Many factors can lead to violence in the workplace — for example, terminations, layoffs, job insecurity, failure to get a raise or promotion, poor supervision, poor working conditions, harassment and workplace stress.
Violence Prevention Program and Policy:
A workplace violence prevention program that clearly prohibits all types of violence can be one of your best lines of defense. The program should include, but may not be limited to, pre-employment background checks and a clear policy stating that all forms of violence will be prohibited:
- Include in the policy a commitment by the company that a safe workplace will be provided.
- Limit access to company property, including offices and plant facilities.
- Include an inspection policy, permitting reasonable searches. Make sure that the search policy has been communicated to employees and the employee signs acknowledging that they have read the policy.
- Implement a policy that limits the use of fax machines, copiers and Email systems for business purposes and does not allow for, or only allows for, minimal personal use.
Additionally, be sure you have a progressive discipline policy that begins with verbal warnings and leads up to termination. For serious violations such as threats with bodily harm and fighting, the policy should lead to immediate termination. Also, if possible, offer an Employee Assistance Program with access to professional counselors.
Train managers and employees so they understand that the company has a “zero tolerance policy” for workplace violence. Give employees a route to report incidents, investigate each incident thoroughly and follow through with discipline if necessary. For more information on developing a workplace violence prevention program, contact your employment attorney or GEA.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice. For legal advice on these subjects we recommend you seek the advice of an experienced labor and employment attorney