Workplace Violence: Who’s to Blame?
Workplace violence presents a growing problem for today’s organizations and society at large. With more than 2 million people directly affected and nearly 1000 fatalities each year, violence in the workplace has reached epidemic proportions.
Employers have a stated obligation under OSHA “to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” But can we really expect an employer to be held liable for the unthinkable?
We can. And frequently, we do.
Employers are held liable for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision–often, even if the alleged conduct of an employee falls outside the scope of the employment relationship. Furthermore, when an employer fails to prevent workplace violence in the face of known or suspected dangers, it may be regarded as “intentional” conduct, which can also result in charges of negligence. (source)
Demonstrate Duty of Care
Employers need to demonstrate a sufficient “duty of care” in their hiring, retention, and supervision processes. This means taking the time to carefully screen candidates before hiring, conduct ongoing screening and assessments throughout the employment period, and provide adequate oversight of behaviors along the way.
Go Beyond Reference Checks
According to a recent SHRM study, 75% of human resource managers reported they never disclosed information to potential employers regarding an employee’s violent behavior. This means, when it comes to pre-employment screening, employers must look beyond reference checks. Gain a holistic view of prospective employees by exploring a wide range of personal background data found through both public and private sources.
Implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Program
A robust workplace violence prevention program can enable your organization to identify employee behaviors that are likely to preempt violence and take appropriate action. Your program should include a finely-tuned workplace violence policy, a comprehensive threat assessment, security survey and measures, incident management, crisis response, whistleblower programs, and training for employees and managers.
Violence in the workplace is an increasing reality. It is tempting to hope for the best but in the end, every employer must be prepared for the worst.
Learn more about crafting your workplace violence prevention program here.