Are Businesses Responsible for Preventing Workplace Violence?
After the tragic on-air shooting in Roanoke, Virginia, the American media has revisited the uncomfortable topic of workplace safety and dangerous employees. Companies are required to provide safe working conditions for employees, but are seemingly unable to prevent acts of violence. The shooter involved in the Virginia murders had a history of heated verbal confrontations with fellow co-workers and supervisors.
In this case, it was easier for the news station to fire the future shooter, as he had never been diagnosed with a mental illness. For numerous other employers around the nation, it is not so simple. Employers can face legal action for firing an employee with a mental illness protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Even though it is difficult to spot mentally ill employees who may be prone to violence, it is still the responsibility of businesses to protect workers. In some situations, employers will refer mentally ill workers to therapists or other medical professionals. However, those medical professionals are legally obligated to adhere to strict confidentiality unless patients are clearly a threat to themselves or others.
How Can Companies Successfully Handle Workplace Violence?
Companies can establish written policies that forbid workplace violence, and penalties for violating those rules. Some employers may also be able to afford staff that is trained to recognize potentially violent employees, as well as how to handle such workers. Employers should also establish a means for workers to submit anonymous tips to warn about workplace violence.
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