Many companies have decided in recent years to implement internal policies regarding workplace violence. Typically, these policies include such items as what employees should do if they witness violence and/or hear threats concerning violence in the workplace. Some workplace violence policies also address what investigative efforts management will use upon receiving notice that an alleged incident of workplace violence is occurring or has occurred.
Before drafting such a policy, however, you should first think through some important preliminary issues. First, you must consider whether your management team will support your proposed policy:
- Do you have the necessary funding for the implementation of your policy?
- Does your corporate environment encourage victims of violence to be forthcoming about violent occurrences in the workplace without fear of retaliation or subsequent victimization by the company?
- Does the company prioritize the issue of employee safety in the workplace?
Before drafting a workplace violence policy, you should first consider how your management team will demonstrate the company’s support of the policy.
Second, any effective workplace violence policy must also include a comprehensive analysis of workplace safety. This analysis should include a commonsense look at all aspects of the workplace in order to identify existing or potential hazards for workplace violence. As part of this analysis, employers must review procedures and operations that contribute to those hazards, as well as identify where the hazards are the greatest. The analysis also should address how to minimize the threat from each identified hazard. For example:
- Can safety measures, such as escorts, emergency telephones, or more lighting, be utilized?
- Can the physical structure of the workplace be changed to deny admission to perpetrators? Would additional technical equipment or security personnel reduce the presence of danger or improve your company’s ability to respond to an incident?
There are a number of free resources available to assist employers in conducting this analysis.
Communicating Your Policies
Third, before drafting a written policy on workplace violence, you must think about how your company will disseminate the written policy to employees and then train them on what to do if they either witness violence in the workplace or experience it themselves. Equally, if not more importantly, think through the training that will be given to supervisors. For example, if a particular workplace violence policy states that an employee may notify a supervisor if he or she experiences or witnesses workplace violence, then every supervisor must be trained on how to recognize potentially violent behavior and what to do in the event that an employee complains, either formally or informally.
Preparing a Response
Finally, because your company may be able to use its written policy and postincident response as a defense in litigation that may arise from an incident of workplace violence, you should think about how you will respond and what investigative techniques you will use should an incident of workplace violence occur. In asserting this defense, the relevant inquiry will likely be whether the company’s actions and investigation reasonably served to prevent future violent occurrences.
Once you have thought through all of these considerations, you are ready to put together a workplace violence policy that is specifically tailored to your workplace environment.