Overhauling the “Zero Tolerance for Violence” Policy
Most HR Professionals would prefer to stay out of the gun control debate. In light of recent gun related violence in the US, however, we once again find ourselves “caught in a legal crossfire between the need to maintain safe workplaces and the right of employees to possess firearms.”
Until recently, many employers attempted to prevent violence in the workplace with Zero-Tolerance policies, but policy alone will not prevent violence, nor will it help in a time of crisis.
Although the gun control debate has taken center stage, gun violence is only one type of violence we may encounter. Here are a few recommendations for preventing and preparing to respond to violence in the workplace.
1. Train your managers and staff to identify the behaviors that may be predictors of potential violence and encourage employees to report conduct that makes them feel uncomfortable. Investigate all complaints and act if needed. Include the reporting structure in policy, and be sure to make employees aware that there will not be retaliation for following the policy.
2. Provide training for employees that goes beyond a zero-tolerance policy. In today’s climate, this means providing training and conducting drills on what to do in an active shooter situation. This may require consulting with your local law enforcement agency, especially if no one on your team is an expert in active shooter preparation. Many agencies will provide active shooter training free of charge.
3. Form a management response team to conduct a threat assessment as well as respond to threats or reports of potential violence. The members of this team may need specialized response training as well. Hire an external party to conduct a threat assessment if your organization is not comfortable conducting it internally.
4. Ensure that your management team understands your state’s laws regarding guns in the workplace. Legal experts say employers have a right to prohibit guns and other dangerous weapons on private property. However, many states have laws allowing employees to have weapons locked in a personal vehicle in the company parking lot. If you are going to implement a no-guns-at-work policy, be sure to post a conspicuous sign prohibiting weapons at work.
5. Consider adopting background check requirements for all new hires. A thorough check may weed out someone with a history of violence or behaviors often associated with a heightened potential for violence.
No employer is immune from workplace violence and no employer can totally prevent it. Taking measures to prevent violence is not enough. We must also prepare to respond and act when faced with a violent situation.