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Dec 09 2010

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Elements of Effective Policies, Practices, and Procedures Related to Workplace Violence

By Raymond J. Carey, Foley & Lardner LLP

In continuation of Part I of our Employment Law Update regarding workplace violence, employers who do not have comprehensive and effective employment policies, practices, and procedures pertaining to workplace violence should promulgate and implement them at the earliest opportunity. The policies should, at a minimum, express zero tolerance for workplace violence of any kind, delineate what constitutes and the consequences of prohibited behavior, specify that employees are obligated to report actual, threatened, or perceived episodes of prohibited behavior without fear of retaliation of any kind, and provide a mechanism for reporting actual, threatened, or perceived episodes of prohibited behavior either anonymously or by name. The policy pertaining to zero tolerance for workplace violence should be disseminated to all affected employees and acknowledged in writing by employees.

The employer’s practices and procedures pertaining to workplace violence should denote the steps to be initiated by management to timely and effectively respond to situations that pose risk of or to actual or perceived instances of workplace violence. Circumstances necessitating whether and when to notify the employer’s security personnel, legal, and human resource representatives, senior management, and internal and external communications experts should be specified. The roles and expectations of each manager should be explained. These items may include the prompt notice to local law enforcement or other authorities and the provision of professional counseling or other intervention by trained professionals depending on the circumstances. Information pertaining to the available medical emergency, behavioral health, and law enforcement assistance should be included.

As a matter of practice and procedure, all reports of prohibited behavior should be timely and comprehensively investigated and appropriate corrective and other action taken based on the results of the investigation. Local law enforcement or other authorities also may need to be apprised of the outcome of the investigation depending on the circumstances.

An employer’s policies, practices, and procedures pertaining to workplace violence should be periodically reviewed and revised as necessary to ensure continuing efficacy. These also should be reissued on a periodic basis to reinforce expectations about acceptable employee behavior in the workplace.
Training Is Essential

Employers should proactively train all of their employees about policies pertaining to zero tolerance for workplace violence, reporting mechanisms, available resources, and the role each employee plays in keeping the workplace safe. Employers should emphasize:

– Each element of the policy governing zero tolerance for workplace violence

– The range of behaviors that are deemed prohibited workplace violence

– Each employee’s obligation to report situations indicative of and actual or perceived instances of workplace violence

– The means to make reports either anonymously or by name without fear of retaliation of any kind

– Bullying and cyber-stalking

– How to respond to employees, customers, clients, and others who are threatening or abusive

– Techniques for dealing with potentially violent situations

– The importance of physical security and following security procedures


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