According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year Connecticut had the highest number of workplace violence deaths as well as the highest percent of deaths related to workplace violence incidents of all the six (6) states in New England. A staggering statistic considering that Connecticut is not the largest in population of the six (6) states and that in fact Massachusetts has a population that is almost twice as large as that of Connecticut.
Let’s take a look at some of the recent incidents of workplace violence in Connecticut that have contributed to these statistics. Of course, everyone remembers the recent incident in Manchester, CT at the beer distributorship. In that incident, Omar Thornton had been called in by management to discuss the tape they had of him appearing to steal beer from one of the trucks he drove. Mr. Thornton was prepared for this meeting because he apparently had brought with him to work that morning a handgun that he used to shoot 8 people and himself targeting all the members of management that had only a few seconds earlier terminated his employment.
What other incidents of workplace violence has Connecticut seen recently? Of course in September 2009 there was the tragic murder of Annie Le at Yale University allegedly by a co-worker and lab technician, Raymond Clark III.
What Can Connecticut and all employers do to prevent incidents of workplace violence in their workplaces? There are proactive steps that employers can take to attempt to prevent incidents of workplace violence. The first step is to have a well-drafted workplace violence policy that sets forth the definition of workplace violence, that management prohibits workplace violence of any kind and the persons to whom complaints should be submitted regarding any incident of workplace violence. The policy should also set forth a prohibition on retaliation of any kind.
What else can an employer do to help prevent workplace violence? Develop an emergency plan including an emergency notification system. Such a system was in the planning stage when the Virginia Tech attack took place but had not yet been implemented. An emergency notification system might have helped to avoid some of the bloodshed on that campus.
In addition, employers should of course provide training to their entire workforce on workplace violence prevention as well as on their workplace violence prevention policy. There are also methods employers can use to make their workplaces safer including better security. They should also ensure that all doors are equipped with keycard access that can indicate exactly who entered and exited each door at what time. This keycard access system was helpful in the investigation into the Annie Le murder at Yale University in 2009.
Another important step that employers should take to prevent violence in their workplaces is to ensure that all acts of violence, no matter how small, are dealt with and that the perpetrator is promptly disciplined. A failure on management’s part to discipline bullies, harassers and confrontational employees can lead to negligent retention claims later on if that employee ends up assaulting another employee or otherwise injuring another employee.
Tough economic times have also probably contributed to this rise in workplace violence in Connecticut. However, employers can take important steps to attempt to prevent violence in their workplaces. These steps can not only help to avoid workplace violence incidents but also can help an employer to avoid any liability for future acts of violence.
For more information on workplace violence or to schedule a workplace violence prevention training seminar, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-417-1715