• The Growing List
  • September 10, 2003
  • Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC - New Orleans Office
  • Shortly after an ethics and sensitivity training meeting attended by thirteen employees of the Meridian, Mississippi Lockheed Martin plant, a man wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle, and a bandoleer of ammunition opened fire on fellow workers, killing five people and wounding nine others before fatally shooting himself. This incident adds to a growing list of workplace violence tragedies.

    Once incidents of work-related violence were virtually unheard of, but occupational violence is a fact of life today. As companies down-size, reorganize, re-engineer, and demand more of each employee, stress levels escalate. The ease with which guns can be obtained, excessive graphic violence on TV and in movies, language and ethnic differences among workers, and the general acceptance of violence as a form of communication by a large segment of our population are all at play. Ignoring the early warning signs of hostile or threatening behavior can lead to unspeakable tragedy and economic consequences far beyond the obvious. Educating personnel, encouraging people to communicate their problems and concerns, and actively addressing issues in the workplace will foster an environment of cooperation and promote camaraderie. Every business, regardless of its size and type, should have a workplace violence program in place to avoid becoming a statistic.

    Employers can take a proactive approach to prevent violence. In our employee relations series booklet entitled "Violence in the Workplace: Preventing Liability" we present some pointers that might be helpful to recall at this time.

    • Don't take any threat or statement lightly.
    • Investigate and take appropriate action.
    • Set a policy on how to handle violence, communicate it to employees, and stick with it.
    • Communicate to employees the company policy against firearms.
    • Get to know local police and seek their assistance and advice.
    • Check hiring procedures; conduct reference checks.
    • Develop security guidelines.
    • Be prepared to deal with workplace trauma or crisis.
    • Know employees well enough to spot problem trends.
    • Train management to recognize and respond to circumstances of aberrant behavior and aggressive acts, and in techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution.
    • Emphasize from the highest level in your organization that no form of workplace violence will be tolerated.
    • Ensure that dignity is made part of all human interactions.
    • Formulate a representative team of employees to develop policies and procedures for the awareness and prevention of workplace violence.
    • Educate employees on workplace violence awareness, early warning signs, emergency procedures and prevention.
    • Provide your employees with training sufficient to improve their "survivability" skills in the event of a violent incident.
    • Encourage employees to report all threats or incidents of workplace violence to a designated management representative.
    • Establish employee assistance and peer support programs and encourage employees to seek help when needed and to assist employees who have already experienced workplace violence.
    • Take immediate action against all forms of workplace violence.