Earlier this month, a cashier at Target was shot to death at work by her ex-boyfriend. Sadly, this story is not unique. Earlier this year, a worker was killed when her ex-boyfriend opened fire in a Duke University Health Systems clinic. And just over a year ago, an estranged husband went to a nursing home looking for his wife, who worked there, and killed eight people in a shooting rampage. One obvious reason the workplace is a target for such violence is because perpetrators generally know when their victims will be at work.
So what is an employer to do? According to the director of Peace at Work, a non-profit dedicated to preventing workplace violence,the key is to create a culture where employees feel safe to report concerns about potential violence. Most victims know they are in danger. But many are afraid to come forward at work, for fear of being fired or suffering some other negative job consequence.
One proactive step employers can take is to adopt some kind of policy whereby employees are encouraged to report concerns of potential violence. When faced with such reports, employers can take steps to beef up security measures.
In addition to such a commonsense approach, many states have laws requiring employers to accommodate victims of domestic violence by providing leaves of absence, modifying schedules to deal with the aftermath of incidents of domestic violence, and the like. Connecticut just passed such a law. And as I blogged about last year, Ohio has such a law pending in the state legislature. We will keep you posted on its status.