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Workplace Violence / Threats of Violence

Leaders within an organization often have the first opportunity to note warning signs of violence, including instances of domestic abuse involving employees and volunteers that may escalate into violence in the work environment.  It is critical for all organizations to take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of a violence incident.  This bulletin offers risk management guidelines along with a Sample Violence/Threats of Violence Policy to help your organization provide a safe and productive work environment for all employees and volunteers and to help reduce exposure to litigation. 

Preventing and Detecting Violence and Threats of Violence

Consider the following tips to help detect and prevent workplace violence and threats of violence:

  • Conduct background checks.
  • Create and disseminate a clear no tolerance policy for workplace violence (may result in immediate termination for any act or threat).
  • Encourage employees and volunteers to promptly report incidents and threats.
  • Develop an emergency response plan as it pertains to workplace violence.
  • Complete a worksite risk analysis/assessment to identify where the organization may be vulnerable and determine what steps can be taken to reduce risk.
  • Consider using an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can assist organizations concerned with potential violence and function as a resource in dealing with threats or acts of violence.
  • Provide supervisory and non-supervisory training on conflict resolution, anger management, team building, and identifying early warning signs of violence.
  • Monitor email and phone calls for threats.
  • Advertise the EAP or other resources for victims of domestic violence.
  • Consider providing assistance to employees and volunteers attempting to obtain restraining orders.
  • Obtain restraining orders for the organization when appropriate.
  • Develop a post-incident response plan.
  • Require badge access to areas beyond visitor areas or lobbies.
  • Give only first names over the phone or to strangers.
  • Escort terminated employees or volunteers off the premises.
  • Install more lighting in parking lots if necessary.
  • Consider video surveillance.

Sample Violence / Threats of Violence Policy

XYZ is committed to preventing workplace violence and providing a safe work environment.  XYZ prohibits and does not tolerate violent acts or threats of violence against employees, volunteers, patients, visitors, guests, community members, or other individuals within its facilities or during any XYZ-related activity (including off duty periods). 

Definition:

Violence may be described as verbal or physical threats, intimidation, and/or aggressive physical contact.  Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Intimidation, harassment, assault, stalking, or other conduct that causes a person to reasonably believe that he or she is under a threat of bodily injury or death;
  • Threatening, attempting, or inflicting injury or damage to another person or property;
  • Possessing a dangerous weapon, such as a firearm, explosive, or hazardous device, or using an object as a weapon on XYZ property or during any XYZ-related activity; and
  • Using obscene or abusive language or gestures in a threatening manner.

Because of the potential for misunderstanding, joking about any of the above conduct is also prohibited.  Employees and volunteers are also expected to refrain from fighting, “horseplay,” or other conduct that may be dangerous to others. 

Restraining Orders:

Any employee or volunteer who obtains a restraining order against any person should immediately notify XYZ management.  XYZ has made a commitment to provide a safe workplace and can only do so if it receives information concerning individuals who have been ordered to maintain a distance from its facilities and / or personnel.

Warning Signs of Potential Violence:

There are often signs serving as a warning that violence in the workplace may occur.  Please review the following list of early warning signs that an individual may act out violently, keeping in mind that demonstration of one or many of the actions on the below list do not automatically point to certain violence.  However, activities should be noted and XYZ will assist in detecting and defusing a potential workplace incident.  Early warning signs may include:

  • Increase in use of alcohol or using drugs;
  • History of violent or aggressive behavior or frequent physical fighting on- or off- duty;
  • Displaying a loss of control, (i.e., loss of temper on a frequent basis, frequently for unsubstantiated reasons, or over minor issues); 
  • Either joking or making serious, direct, or veiled threats;
  • Physically, verbally, or emotionally intimidating others or instilling fear, for example, harassing phone calls, emails and/or stalking;
  • Being obsessed with one’s job and having no known outside interests;
  • Being a loner and/or expressing a strong desire for a personal or romantic relationship with a co-worker (Under these circumstances, the co-worker may feel threatened and report the unwanted attention);
  • Obsession with weapons or militia, particularly if this is new behavior for an employee or volunteer; 
  • Feeling constantly disrespected, demonstrating a “me versus the world” attitude, having trouble with authority, for example, feeling discriminated against, harassed, or intentionally targeted, not accepting criticism well, and commonly harboring resentment; 
  • Expressing desperation, significant frustration, or depression over recent professional, personal, or financial problems; 
  • Fascination with other recent incidents of violence and approval of the use of violence;
  • Disregard for safety, thus presenting a risk to self and others;
  • Demonstrating a lack of conscience and/or abuse towards other persons or animals;
  • Vandalism or property damage;
  • Failing to acknowledge the feelings or rights of others; and
  • Having been a victim of violence or bullying.

What to do:

If you witness a potentially violent situation or are dealing with a threatening or violent person, do not place yourself in danger or try to intercede.  You should not attempt to challenge or disarm the individual.  If possible, escape the scene and immediately contact local law enforcement authorities.  Consider the following safety tips in the event of a violent or potentially violent situation. Try to remain calm.

  • Keep a distance of 4-6 feet.
  • Do not touch the threatening or violent individual.
  • Make constant eye contact, but do not try to “stare down” the threatening or violent person.
  • Actively listen and respond to the individual.
  • Ask the person making the threats or acting violently for solutions. 
  • If a supervisor or other appropriate authority can be safely notified of the need for assistance without endangering your safety or that of others, do so.  Otherwise, cooperate and follow the instructions given. 

Reporting Procedure

All threats of (or actual) violence, both direct and indirect, MUST be reported as soon as possible to your immediate supervisor or any other member of XYZ management.  Employees or volunteers are encouraged to contact the appropriate law enforcement authorities without first informing their immediate supervisor if they reasonably believe that imminent danger to their own safety or that of others exists.  Employees or volunteers shall then immediately report to their supervisor or others in the chain of command.

A reportable incident can be an act or threat from XYZ employees, volunteers, patients, patients’ family members, as well as others from the public and includes those threats or acts that may be perceived, actually experienced, or witnessed.  When reporting an act or threat of violence, you should be as specific and detailed as possible.  Employees and volunteers must also report all threats or violent acts they witness or experience while on duty away from XYZ premises or during any XYZ-related activity, or which relate to legitimate business interests of XYZ.

The identity of the individual making a report will be protected as much as is practical.  In order to maintain workplace safety and the integrity of its investigation, XYZ may suspend employees or volunteers suspected of violence or threats of violence, either with or without pay, pending investigation. 

In no instance will a member be disciplined, retaliated against, or discharged for good faith reporting of any reasonably perceived act or threat of violence.  Anyone reasonably believed to have engaged in retaliation of any kind will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or affiliation, and prosecution for any criminal behavior linked to retaliatory activity.  False or intentionally misleading reports are unacceptable and will be handled through XYZ personnel procedures regarding disciplinary measures up to and including termination of the working relationship.

All acts of, or threats of violence will be thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action and / or legal prosecution to the fullest extent possible will be pursued against XYZ personnel, and those outside the organization for violating this policy.