Violence is one of top causes of workplace fatalities, accounting for 17% of all workplace fatalities in 2016, according to the National Safety Council.
The effects of workplace violence on employees goes beyond death and injury; it has significant effects that can negatively impact your organization long after the incident has passed. Workplace violence also includes behaviors that make other employees feel threatened, cause disruption to an otherwise positive work environment and more. These behaviors can also impact customers, clients, contractors, vendors and even the general public.
Employers are tasked with finding a delicate balance between identifying potential workplace violence threats and avoiding liabilities associated with engaging with employees who may exhibit threatening behaviors. The mental health of employees is a serious concern for today’s employers but, if not handled properly, an employer’s attempts to identify the cause behind disruptive behaviors can lead to liabilities. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees with mental health conditions are entitled to protections and reasonable accommodations.
Below are some ways employers and leaders can engage with workers to identify and mitigate unusual behaviors to help prevent workplace violence without creating additional liabilities.
- Zero-Tolerance Policies
Employers should create, maintain, communicate and enforce policies that clearly oppose any type of violence, harassment or bullying and have immediate consequences for employees that do not adhere to them. Any claims of threatening behaviors should be investigated immediately and thoroughly.
- General Safety and Prevention
Employers can put into place safety measures that help mitigate violent threats to employees without singling out any one employee as being a threat. In addition to general security measures such as cameras, well-lit common areas and security personnel, employers should consider going even further. Implementing measures such as doing thorough background checks on all new hires, limiting worksite access for non-employees and even providing de-escalation training for leadership provides employees with a more secure worksite for both safety and peace of mind.
- Consistent Performance Management
When an employer enforces consistent, performance-related employee management, there is no question that one employee’s behavior is being approached in a discriminating manner. The employer or leadership team should always follow normal company policies when dealing with performance issues, and the focus of the resolution should be on what the employee needs to be able to get back on track.
- Prompt Execution of Accommodations
During the course of a performance-related disciplinary meeting, if an employee divulges a possible underlying mental health issue or disability, the employer should not hesitate to make any necessary accommodations. Any inquiries should be limited to how the disability affects performance, and the employee should not be required to disclose more information than is necessary for the employer to assess disability-related performance problems and provide ADA accommodations.
Minimizing workplace violence is required as part of a comprehensive safety and training program. For more information, talk to your HR or Safety and Risk Management Consultant.
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