WORKPLACE VIOLENCE (Lesson 33 of 33)
When an employer becomes aware that an employee is being stalked, harassed, threatened, or abused and that the risk has or may come into the workplace, the threat should be subjected to the same evaluation procedure as any other violent threat, to assess the likelihood of violence and determine the best means of intervention. In almost all cases, employers should advise police of the circumstances, risk of violence, and possible criminal violations (of harassment or stalking laws, for instance) and involve law enforcement professionals in assessing and managing the threat. During and after the assessment, someone—from security, human resources, or a supervisor—should be responsible for keeping in close touch with the abuse victim, not only to help protect his/her safety and meet any needs that arise, but also to make sure of receiving any relevant information about the abuser (whom the victim, presumably, will know better than anyone else in the workplace). Other steps include:
- Referring the employee for emotional, legal, or financial counseling, either through the company’s own employee assistance structure or from outside practitioners, (e.g., battered women’s shelter or similar programs).
- Ascertaining if the employee has sought or obtained a protective “stay-away” court order against an abusive partner or other harasser.
- Adopting policies that will allow an abused worker time off for purposes such as going to court to seek a restraining order or appearing to testify at a criminal trial.
- Reviewing the employee’s work space and modifying it, if necessary, to make sure that a possible assailant cannot get there.
- Acting consistently with the employee’s privacy rights and wishes and takes the proper measures to inform other employees (security officers, secretaries, receptionists, and telephone operators, for instance) so they can block an abuser’s calls or make sure he/she is kept out of the workplace.
Employers may consider other actions as well. One option would be to help an employee obtain a restraining order (or obtain one on its own to keep a harasser off company property). Another would be to extend protective measures away from the work site, looking at other places a worker may regularly go—such as a school or daycare facility where her children are enrolled, for example—and suggesting precautions that could be taken.