Recent events including the San Bernardino tragedy and the recent threats to the New York and Los Angeles public school systems remind us that violence in the workplace has been, and continues to be, a huge issue for employers. The beginning of a new year is a great time for reflection on events from the previous year, identifying any lessons learned, and making any necessary adjustments.
In California, the law imposes a duty on all employers to provide a safe workplace. All employers are required to have a workplace security plan. If your agency does not have a workplace security plan, or if the plan has not been reviewed recently, we recommend taking the time now to address the matter. Here are a few preventative measures employers should incorporate into an effective workplace security plan.
- Demonstrate a strong management commitment to preventing workplace violence.
All employees should be made aware that the agency is committed to providing a safe work environment that is free of violence and that management will not tolerate violence, or the threat of violence, against or by any employee.
The security plan should provide that management will investigate and appropriately deal with any reported act of violence or threat of violence. Dealing with threats of violence can be particularly challenging. In the majority of cases, a threat will not lead to a violent act. However, a threat affects workplace security and requires a response. No threat should be taken lightly. All threats, whether idle or serious, should be taken seriously and investigated. Every case should be examined and evaluated on the basis of its particular nature and circumstances. Even if, after investigation, it is determined that a threat was made in jest, a record of the threat should be made. If a pattern develops, threats that appear harmless in the beginning may turn out to be indicative of a more serious problem.
- Have a clear, written workplace violence policy provided to employees.
It is critical to ensure that all employees know the workplace violence policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly. Accordingly, the workplace violence policy should be provided to all employees and be easily accessible. The policy should make clear to all employees that engaging in violence or the threat of violence is unacceptable and could lead to discipline, up to and including termination, and/or criminal prosecution.
The policy should also provide a system for employees to communicate information about workplace security hazards, including means by which employees can inform the employer of hazards without fear of reprisal. The policy should expressly state that any person, acting in good faith, who initiates a complaint or reports an incident under the policy, will not be subject to retaliation or harassment.
- Provide workplace violence prevention training and education for all employees.
Training is a key factor in an effective workplace security plan. The agency should regularly train and educate all employees, supervisors, and managers regarding risk factors, crime awareness, assault and rape prevention, how to diffuse hostile situations, and what steps to take during an emergency.
If you need any assistance with developing or reviewing your workplace security plan or anti-violence policies, attorneys at all LCW offices are available to consult.