Domestic Violence Can Lead to Workplace Active Shooters?

November 28, 2016

In a recent client assessment for active shooter response preparedness, I asked the question whether any act of lethal violence had ever occurred at the facility. The response was no, but a case of spousal abuse had taken place in the parking lot across the street – their employee parking lot!

broken home window It is not always the disgruntled former employee who engages in active shooter massacres. Domestic violence that builds up over time can lead to such tragedies as well. Because of this, your workplace violence policy should address the reporting of domestic abuse as a requirement, not just a suggestion. This includes the observation of it happening to a co-worker. The policy should give clear reasons why this is necessary, and perhaps list examples of cases where domestic violence exploded within the workplace. Did you know that 74% of the reported cases of domestic abuse also reported that some of the abuse actually took place in the victim’s work area? Consider that even if an abused spouse or partner secures a restraining order for the home, or if the victim moves, the next most predictable place to find that victim is at work. Now others are exposed to the danger!

It used to be that companies did not want to get involved with domestic abuse experienced by one of their employees. There was a ‘check your personal problems at the door’ attitude. That demeanor is now flat out dangerous. The violent spouse or partner in a fit of rage, seeking the victim at their workplace, does not always confine the violence to just the victim. The company or organization has a moral and legal responsibility to be aware of such abusive activity and foresee that it could enter the workplace and become everyone’s problem. The courts will certainly look at it that way, should an incident occur in the workplace and someone else is hurt.

If the victim’s co-workers are aware of the abuse, then the organization needs to be aware of it too. Therefore, your policy needs to make all of your employees aware of their responsibility to report such a situation for a discrete investigation. Besides doing the right thing to help the victim employee, your knowledge of the abuse, and subsequent actions taken to protect that individual and the work environment will become part of your defense. It might even prevent a violent incident. Options could include:

  • Counseling or other Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intervention
  • Relocating the affected employee within the office to a new workspace
  • Changing their schedule to avoid nighttime parking
  • Transferring them to another facility

Make some accommodations that will either help with the problem or reduce the likelihood that the problem will manifest itself at work in a violent manner. OSHA’s general duty clause maintains the expectation that the workplace is made safe from foreseeable dangers and this is one of them.
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