fies warning signs that an employee is a domestic violence
victim and suggests the following measures be considered:
• Referring the employee for emotional,
legal, or financial counseling, either through
the company’s own employee assistance
structure or from outside practitioners,(e.g.,
battered women’s shelter or similar
• Ascertaining if the employee has sought or
obtained a protective “stay-away” court order
against an abusive partner or other harasser.
• Adopting policies that will allow an abused
worker time off for purposes such as going to
court to seek a restraining order or appearing
to testify at a criminal trial.
• Reviewing the employee’s work space and
modifying it, if necessary, to make sure that a
possible assailant cannot get there.
• Acting consistently with the employee’s
privacy rights and wishes and takes measures
to inform other employees (security guards,
secretaries, receptionists, and telephone
operators, for instance) so they can block an
abuser’s calls or make sure he is kept out of
A Workplace Violence Prevention Program can and
should include dispute resolution mechanisms to surface
and resolve dispute between and among employees, customers and others. For example, many hospitals, nursing
homes and other healthcare facilities now have patient
care advocacy offices that are available around the clock
to resolve patient and family complaints about patient
care. Diversity, “respect in the workplace” and conflict
resolution training can also be very valuable. Conflict management professionals can be helpful in designing and
implementing such systems, and also in identifying and
planning for specific circumstances, such as employee
terminations or reductions in force, that might lead to
violence. In this regard, the FBI‘s “Workplace Violence;
Issues in Response” identifies the following workplace
characteristics and events that present risks of violence:
• Understaffing that leads to job overload or
• Frustrations arising from poorly defined job
tasks and responsibilities.
• Downsizing or reorganization.
• Labor disputes and poor labor-management
• Poor management styles (for example,
arbitrary or unexplained orders; over-monitoring;
• Corrections or reprimands in front of other
employees, inconsistent discipline).
• Inadequate security or a poorly trained, poorly
motivated security force.
• A lack of employee counseling.
• A high injury rate or frequent grievances .
Employees who identify risks must have a confidential
way to report them, preferably to an independent agency.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Program must include
procedures for investigation, follow-up and evaluation
of identified risks or violations, including protection of
reporters against retaliation. Unfortunately, in my experience, reports of unacceptable workplace behavior such
as bullying, stalking or other forms of humiliation tend
to prompt companies to “circle the wagons” and excuse
or protect the aggressor, and try to shift blame to the
accuser, which further deters other would-be reporters.
Again, conflict management expertise can be invaluable in
designing a reliable and trustworthy adjudicatory mechanism to evaluate reports and take appropriate action if
they are verified.
Training and education are also important elements of
any Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Such training
should cover the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy,
applicable safety procedures such as workplace security,
alarm systems, screening of employees, customers and
visitors, applicable reporting mechanisms and resources
and techniques for managing their own stress. Such training should include instruction on how to deal with incidents
and circumstances presenting a risk of violence, including
ways of defusing or deescalating conflict.
A Workplace Violence Prevention Program should also
include procedures to respond to a violent incident, including debriefing and counseling. Employers should maintain
records of reports, threats and incidents of violence and
the Threat Assessment Team should periodically review
and update the Program in light of those reports.
Workplace violence is a real threat, especially in certain
kinds of workplaces. Employers have a duty to provide a
safe workplace, and need to become familiar with applicable risk factors, best practices, and legal constraints
in doing so. Conflict management professionals can be
invaluable in developing and implementing a Workplace
Violence Prevention Program. n