When Employers Are Confronted With Workplace Violence

While in some sectors there is a call to ease up on background checks, the obvious question that comes to mind is who bears the brunt of it if an employee who snaps out and commits to violence in the workplace turns  out to have a history as a convicted felon? Why the employer, of course.  The employer will incur the damages, the litigation and liability issues the public embarrassment and the knowledge that employees were harmed in the working environment.

When violence is committed in the workplace, the first question asked, once the bodies and debris are cleared, is why wasn't he checked out?  Why didn't the employer know there was a criminal history, that there were substance issues, domestic violence, or that the violent employee was so adversely  affected by the economy he acted out.

Why indeed?  Possibly because the employer was negligent in conducting the appropriate background checks on employment candidates.  Possibly because no one reviewed the finished report and the employee was hired despite his violent past.   Or possibly some well intentioned  civic action group invoked illogical judgment that ultimately restricted any comprehensive employment screening.    All in the name of fairness.

So what's fair?   That someone isn't hired because of a criminal past?  Or that an employee becomes a victim and suffers irretrievable physical and psychological harm, because a disturbed individual with some type of grudge or because he was feeling poorly about his finances, or was embattled with his lover, or because he just didn't like the day?

This is a question or serious question that will be faced legally and empirically in the very near future.   Tough choices and no easy answers.

Views: 67

Comment by Yancey Thomas Jr on February 15, 2011 at 2:43pm

There's also another "Why indeed" question that needs to be asked. Why indeed does an employer allow a workplace saturated with bullying, discrimination, intimidation, retaliation and more? Workplace violence prevention doesn't just involve, "criminal history, that there were substance issues, domestic violence, or that the violent employee was so adversely  affected by the economy".

I've not conducted any independent research however, I believe statistics would show lower instances of violence in a workplace that respects and enforces employee rights versus a culture that doesn't.


Comment by Gordon Basichis on February 15, 2011 at 3:17pm
Yancey,  you make an excellent point with your comments.  Criminal history should by no means be the so focus for potential hostility int he workplace.  I have witnessed workplace environments where the prevailing  humor was employees are so confused they stab each other in the chest in instead of the back.  It's funny on one end, but certainly not in reality.  I would agree that proactive employers nip adversarial actions in the bud, so that the  more hostile employees do not feel emboldened by lack of response.


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