Emergency Preparedness

Orlando Workplace Shooting Involved Ex-Employee

A 45-year-old former employee of an Orlando, Florida awning company returned to the factory that had fired him this past April and killed five people and then himself. John Neumann, Jr. was armed with a semiautomatic handgun when he entered the facility and began shooting on June 5, 2017.

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Orlando law enforcement authorities say that Neumann had a previous confrontation with a coworker at the same company, Fiamma, Inc., back in June 2014. Neumann was accused of battering that coworker, but after deputies interviewed both men, no charges were filed. That coworker was not harmed in this current incident.

This workplace shooting in Orlando comes nearly 1 year from the June 12, 2016, murders at the Pulse night club, where Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, barricaded himself inside as he killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a terroristic attack. Critics who suggested Mateen’s attack was not workplace violence but rather a hate crime (which it was as well), misunderstand the definition of workplace violence. It’s defined as an attack or threat of violence directed by or at an organization’s employees, customers, visitors, vendors, taxpayer, patients, passengers, students, or others who receive or provide services on behalf of that organization.

Security and workplace violence prevention experts already know how difficult it is to stop armed attackers in cases like these without hearing about warning signs from coworkers or being able to keep the facility completely locked down from outsiders like former employees, vendors, or unauthorized visitors. Orlando law enforcement has not said if Neumann told anyone of his plans or, if he did, if those people notified the company or law enforcement. This “leakage” of information, where the potential perpetrator doesn’t warn his or her target directly, but tells someone else—a family member, a current or former coworker, another student, or makes a social media posting—is a common characteristic in workplace violence and school violence cases.

The rate of homicide due to workplace violence has continued to edge up slightly from 2010 to 2015, the last year of reported data, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of fatalities by murder in 2015 was 417. While this is an unacceptable number in any year, it shows a significant improvement from the 1990s, when over 1500 people were killed at work each year. This dramatic reduction can be connected to a number of factors, including increased media coverage of events; more employee awareness of the warning signs for workplace violence among coworkers; the installation of violence awareness tip lines, ethics hotlines, and similar anonymous reporting procedures where employees can report their safety and security concerns; HR and security policies related to the organization’s response and investigation to workplace violence threats; vigilance by managers and supervisors; the creation of Threat Assessment Teams (TATs); more exposure for troubled employees to therapy and counseling services offered by Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs); and more humane treatment of at-risk employees during the discipline and termination process.