On Friday, May 6, the Tennessee Bar Association held its first in-person Labor & Employment Law Forum since 2019. Among the presenters were John Bode of Miller & Martin PLLC and Paul Merritt of Fortress Consulting, LLC, who discussed workplace violence.
Thinking and talking about workplace violence is scary. Nobody wants to imagine it. But it happens. According to Workplace Violence Prevention Institute Founder Kathleen Bonczyk, at least two million workers in the United States experience workplace violence. And she suspects that number is low; many incidents of workplace violence go unreported.
Eliminating workplace violence is impossible. That said, there are ways to be proactive. Clients should follow three steps to maximize their workplace violence preparedness:
1. Create or update your workplace violence prevention policy. At a minimum, the policy should do the following:
a. Define “workplace violence.” You can give examples, such as physical violence, harassment, bullying, and intimidation, but keep the overall definition broad.
b. Identify to whom the policy applies, g., employees, contractors, and visitors.
c. Identify when the policy applies, g., whether off-duty incidents will ever be covered.
d. Explain what employees must do to prevent and, if necessary, respond to workplace violence or threats of it.
e. Explain what employers must do to prevent and, if necessary, respond to workplace violence or threats of it.
2. Train your employees on the policy. Prevention is the goal, not punishment. Provide additional training for managers and supervisors.
3. Conduct a security assessment. You cannot address vulnerabilities until you are aware of them. For example, can employers secure elevators and doors without calling an outside entity? Do you have a method for alerting all employees to an incident? Where should employees go, whether inside or outside the building, for safety?
Most companies have fire drills. Are they disruptive? Yes. Loud? Extremely. But in the unlikely event of a fire, employers and employees know where to go and what to do. They are trained. Workplace violence deserves the same attention. Consult with a member of the Husch Blackwell Labor and Employment team if you need help crafting your workplace violence policy today.