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An examination of the essential elements of a workplace violence prevention program for the Municipality of Cortland County

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AN EXAMINATION OF THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A WORKPLACE
VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM FOR THE MUNICIPALITY OF
CORTLAND COUNTY
A POSITION PAPER
by
Laurie Gosse
Submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
in
labor and policy studies
Empire State College
State University of New York
2010
First Reader: Roger Keeran
Second Reader: Jason Russell
UMI Number: 1484346
All rights reserved
INFORMATION TO ALL USERS
The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted.
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and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed,
a note will indicate the deletion.
UMT
Dissertation Publishing
UMI 1484346
Copyright 2010 by ProQuest LLC.
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unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
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Abstract
This position paper examines the topic of workplace violence and how it can be
prevented in the Municipality of Cortland County. It demonstrates what workplace violence is by
defining it and providing historical examples. The paper examines violence prevention
techniques that can be utilized by employers as well as the consequences of a lack thereof. It
provides specific recommendations for Cortland County to implement to guard against
workplace violence and to maintain and foster a safe work environment. This study was based
upon a variety of sources including interviews with Cortland County administrators and research
derived from occupational health and safety and human resources journals.
CONTENTS
Chapter One
Introduction
1
Chapter Two
Workplace Violence - A Tragic Reality
15
Chapter Three
Best Practices
27
Chapter Four
The Responsibility of Violence
43
Chapter Five
Recommendations for Program Implementation
57
Chapter Six
Conclusion
74
Bibliography
85
I
ILLUSTRATIONS
Figures
1.
Cortland County worksites
2.
Employee responses to employee survey
1.
Employee survey
Tables
Attachments
A.
Risk evaluation worksheet
B.
Proposed Workplace Violence Prevention Policy/Pro
C.
Criminal background check guidelines
D.
Training fact sheets
E.
Training worksheet
F.
Training case study
Chapter One: Introduction
What does workplace violence mean? What is a workplace violence prevention program?
What is the nature of public employment in Cortland County? What has been the history of
workplace violence for Cortland County employees and how has the County assessed the risks?
The woman entered the first floor public rest room as she did frequently, having worked
in the building for many years. The rest room held three stalls; all were empty at the time. She
entered the first stall. Within seconds, she heard the door to the rest room open. Heavy footsteps
followed. They stopped outside her stall door. Two large hands appeared on the floor just outside
the stall door. Then the woman saw a man's face peering under the door. She screamed. The man
ran out. The woman stood in the stall area for minutes, breathing heavily, wondering if she
should leave the rest room. She did not know where the man was. Finally, she ran out of the rest
room and back to her office, only a few yards away. She could not believe what had just
happened. She later found out that the man had recently been released from jail.
Cortland County's Deputy Personnel Director experienced this incident in the first floor
women's restroom in the Cortland County Office Building in Cortland, New York in 2006. The
woman reported the incident to her supervisor and the City Police Department, who filed a police
report. No one notified other employees in the building of the incident. The woman wondered if
the perpetrator would return to her workplace, and co-workers wondered if it would happen
again, perhaps to them. Other workers in the building advised her to use a different restroom, but
the County took no preventative measures. The County did not have a formal procedure in place
to handle incidents of this nature. As of 2009, it still does not.1
Interview with Annette Barber by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 12, 2009.
1
Was this incident an act of workplace violence? According to the New York State
Department of Labor, workplace violence is defined as any physical assault, threatening
behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. A work setting is any locale, permanent
or temporary, where an employee performs work-related duties, including the building and
surrounding perimeters, which may include parking lots, clients' homes and travel to and from
work assignments.3 The Workplace Violence Institute adds to this definition, stating that
workplace violence is "any act against any employee that creates a hostile work environment and
negatively affects the employees, either physically or psychologically." 4 The incident above
does fall under the category of workplace violence, although it is not what some may consider a
violent act.
How could this incident have been prevented? Many employers have instituted a
workplace violence prevention program in response to incidents such as this. According to the
United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a
prevention program should reflect the "level and nature of threat faced by the
employee(s)/employer."5 The program should review and assess risks in all four categories of
potential violence, which include:
1. Criminal intent - these violent acts are committed for the purpose of committing a
crime, like a burglary.
2. Customer or client - violence directed at employees by customers or clients
2
New York State Department of Labor, "Workplace Violence Prevention for Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.state.nv.us/workerprotection (accessed December 10, 2008).
3
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1988.
4
Chuck Mannila, "How to Avoid Becoming A Workplace Violence Statistic," T&D, Vol 62, Issue 7 (July
2008): 62.
5
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety &Health Administration, "Elements of a Workplace
Violence Prevention Program," http://www.osha.gov (accessed October 10,2008).
2
3. Personal - violence committed by an individual who does not work at the business,
but has a personal relationship with an employee.
4. Co-worker - violence committed against employees by current or former employees.6
The above incident may still have occurred, even with a program in place. An effective
program, however, could have provided the County and the employee with a reporting
mechanism and some sort of follow-up procedure to ensure the employee and the employee's coworkers' safety. Additionally, it could have provided for a post-incident response system that
would examine the incident and propose prevention methods in order to avoid future
occurrences.
The County Office Building is located in downtown Cortland and is the address of many
of the county's municipal offices, including the Department of Social Services, the Health
Department, the Public Defender's Office, and the Area Agency on Aging. Approximately 357
employees work in this building and at least 400 visitors enter the building daily. The building is
just one of Cortland County's twenty-one worksites. Figure 1 lists the other twenty worksites and
their corresponding average number of employees and visitors.7
Cortland County is a rural community in upstate New York, located between Syracuse,
Ithaca and Binghamton. The County is comprised of fifteen towns, three villages and the City of
Cortland. The County's population is approximately 48,369 and has been declining each year
since 2000. Its main industries are farming and manufacturing, although several manufacturing
plants closed their doors between the mid 1990's and 2007. The County's unemployment is
among the highest in New York State, 11 percent compared to the 2009 national average of 8.5
6
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety &Health Administration, "Elements of a Workplace
Violence Prevention Program," http://www.osha.gov (accessed October 10, 2008).
7
Cortland County Personnel Records, Cortland, NY (accessed October 11, 2008).
3
percent; job growth has been decreasing by approximately one percent each year. The cost of
living in Cortland County is 16.94 percent lower than the rest of the country. Home values
depreciated by 5.3 percent from 2008 to 2009.8
The FBI Uniform Crime Rate database for 2004 showed that Cortland County had a low
property crime rate compared to state and national statistics. However, the County's violent
crime rate is higher than both the national and state averages. "Cortland, New York is in the 82
percentile rank in the state for violent crime." This means that 82% of cities in New York State
have violent crime rates that are lower than the City of Cortland's. In 2006, Cortland County's
crime statistics showed that the County had a higher number of rapes than the national average.9
New York State Civil Service Law and the Cortland County Civil Service Rules govern
employment within the Municipality of Cortland County. Each employee hired to work for the
County is a civil servant, hired to perform specific job duties. Most of these positions require
specific minimum qualifications. The Personnel/Civil Service Office staff reviews job
applications for positions that require qualifications, like attorney, caseworker, social worker,
accountant and public health nurse. Some positions do not require specific qualifications. These
include positions like cleaners, laborers and food service helpers. Additionally, County elected
and appointed officials, such as County Legislators, the Sheriff, and the District Attorney, are
also County employees. All County employees are required by local law to abide by and adhere
to the County's policies in regards to employment, code of ethics and disciplinary procedures. °
Most County employees are also governed by a collective bargaining agreement.
9
http://www.neighborhoods.homeseekers.coin/Countv (accessed September 21, 2009).
"Crime Report for Cortland, New York," http://www.homesurfer.com/crimereports (accessed July 22,
2009).
10
Interview with Annette Barber by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, October 12, 2008.
4
Approximately 580 of the County's 700 employees are covered by one of the following labor
contracts: the New York State Nurses Association, the County Police Association, CSEA Unit
6550, CSEA Unit 655002 and CSEA Unit 655003. An "Employment Policy Manual for
Department Head and Management Employees" regulates employment for the remaining
employees. The County educates union members about any new and impending regulations or
procedures that may have an impact on them before implementation of the policy, although
County policies are not considered a mandatory subject of negotiation unless there is a financial
impact. The County Legislature needs to vote on and pass countywide policies to enact them.
The varying nature of County jobs, under various labor contracts at various worksites, poses a
dilemma when creating and implementing a policy. There is no one prescription or solution for
all County employees.11
According to Chuck Mannila in "How to Avoid Becoming Workplace Violence
Statistic," government workers have a higher risk for workplace violence than private sector
workers due to their involvement with the public. According to the Minnesota Department of
Labor and Industry, "violence in the workplace, home, and community are strongly
associated."12 It reported that almost two-thirds of non-fatal workplace assaults occur in public
industries, such as social services.13 In 2009, Cortland County formed a Risk Assessment Team,
comprised of Safety Officer Scott Evener and Deputy Personnel Director Laurie Gosse, to assess
potential workplace violence hazards at County worksites. The team visited twenty of the
twenty-one worksites, identified issues, and proposed recommendations based upon the
assessments. Utilizing the "Cortland County Workplace Violence Risk Evaluation and
11
Interview with Annette Barber by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 12, 2009.
Chuck Mannila, "How to Avoid Becoming A Workplace Violence Statistic," T&D, Vol 62, Issue 7 (July
2008): 64.
12
5
Determination Worksheet," developed by the New York State Department of Labor (attachment
1) the team found the following:
County Office Building
Issues Identified: There are too many entrances/exits in this worksite in order to effectively
monitor visitors in the building. The security officers and magnetometer are located on the
second floor outside of the Social Services Department and only check visitors to that particular
department. These security officers are also responsible for responding to emergency calls from
any employees within the building, including panic button alarms.
Recommendation: Control access into the building by allowing only one entrance for visitors
that should be monitored by security officers. This could be accomplished by moving the
existing security officers and magnetometer to the public entrance. Provide additional (one or
two) entrances for employees that would be accessible only by keypad or swipe card as is the
current practice at the courthouse. Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Public Safety Building
Issues Identified: There is uncontrolled access to the building by the public and employees, and
uncontrolled access to the elevator. There is no mechanism for communication from the lobby to
the dispatch center.
Recommendation: Implement a card access system to the building, along with several areas
within the building itself, such as the Road room, the stairwell to the second and third floor and
the elevator. This would control access to and within the building. The lobby area needs to be
secured with a video which records continuously. Most of the time there is no Police Officer in
6
the building and dispatchers are unable to leave the dispatch area. Initial and annual conflict
resolution training.
Highway Garage Buildings
Issues Identified: This location is made up of many buildings. Visitors to the Highway do not
necessarily stop in at the main office. They may walk directly into any of the Highway buildings
where they have business. There is no way to know if a visitor may be on the property at any
given time.
Recommendation: Installation of magnetic lockable door for front entrance so that people could
not walk in without first stopping at the reception area. Implement sign in/sign out procedure for
any visitors coming in to the Highway Dept. at the main office. Initial and annual conflict
resolution training.
Landfill
Issues Identified: Weigh Scale Attendant works in isolated area, but has radio and telephone
communications available.
Recommendation: Initial and annual confliction resolution training.
Recycling Center
Issues Identified: Employees sometimes work alone. However, they are equipped with
communication devices for safety purposes.
Recommendation: Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Airport
7
Issues Identified: Airport Maintenance Worker works alone, but is equipped with radio and
telephone for communication purposes.
Recommendation: Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Dwyer Park
Issues Identified: Isolation of employees is a concern, for both Park Attendants and Wade Pool
Attendants. They are equipped with communication devices, however.
Recommendation: Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Courthouse
Issues Identified: This worksite is secured by State Court Officers. There is one entrance for
clients/visitors equipped with a metal detector which all visitors are required to enter through.
Employees enter the building through a separate secured entrance. Therefore, no issues have
been identified.
Recommendation: Continued agreement with State for security. Initial and annual conflict
resolution training.
Career Works Center
Issues Identified: Employees from many different agencies work in this building, including
County employees. The County rents space in the building, so any physical building changes
could be problematic. There is an internal violence prevention plan in place and the State is in
the process of implementing a violence prevention program for the State employees who work
there. This will need to work in coordination with the County program/policy.
Recommendation: Installation of panic buttons. Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
8
Mental Health Clinic
Issues Identified: Employees who work in the reception area, which is located near the front
entrance, have a clear view of the front door, but not the side door. Inadequate lighting in the
parking lot. This would only be a problem at night, but the clinic is beginning to make evening
appointments.
Recommendation: Installation of door buzzer for side handicapped entrance. Implement
procedure for clients to check and/or leave any belongings in reception area. Installation of
adequate lighting for parking area. Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Horizon House
Issues Identified: Although the side and back doors are usually locked while the building is open,
the use of two doors for client entry and exit allows for much client freedom within the building
and on the property. In addition, two of the doors could be easily broken in to.
Recommendation: Installation of panic buttons. Installation of two new doors including proper
locking mechanism. Implement internal procedure to allow for better control of where clients are
in the building. Implement procedure to check and/or store any client belongings upon entry to
the building. Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Planning
Issues Identified: Visitors to this building do not enter a reception area. This prohibits knowledge
of who is in the building at any given time. Additionally, there is no door buzzer and the office
set up prohibits view of the main entrance that visitors use. The building's conference room is
used by many community groups for meetings, some at night. In the case of night meetings, the
building key is signed out to a member representing the group using the conference room. There
is no procedure in place to ensure that the building is empty before it is locked and closed at the
9
end of the business day. County employees work on second floor of building. First floor is
occupied by other community employees. Second floor is unsecured when other events are
occupying the building.
Recommendation: Implement written procedure for use of conference room/sign out of building
key. Place secured door on second floor to be operated by key pad or swipe card to secure area.
Install a front door buzzer and a camera at main entrance. Implement procedure to ensure
building is empty upon closing. Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
Hospice
Issues Identified: There are very few visitors to this facility on a daily basis. All visits are
scheduled. Therefore, no issues have been identified.
Recommendation: Initial and annual conflict resolution training
Senior Centers: McGraw, Harford, Truxton, Homer, Scott, Cincinnatus/Willet, Marathon
Issues Identified: These worksites are not owned by the County. The public, as well as County
employees, use the buildings various times throughout each day of the week. Many events open
to the public are held in this building outside of it being used for the Cortland County Nutrition
program.
Recommendation: Initial and annual conflict resolution training.
The County Jail, which is included in the total number of County worksites, was not
included in these recommendations. The Sheriffs Department does not disclose security
measures in this building due to the nature of the work.14 Therefore, the County Risk Assessment
Team did not perform a true risk assessment on that particular worksite. The team concluded that
Interview with Cortland County Undersheriff by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, August 22, 2009.
10
the following are significant factors that should be considered when creating a countywide
prevention program:
1. Most Sheriffs Department employees carry handguns and other weapons as a matter of
daily business. Each employee authorized to carry a weapon has been provided with
extensive training.
2. Many County employees, such as Police Officers, Correction Officers, Caseworkers and
Probation Officers, deal with mentally unstable clients who may or do have criminal
records.
3. Many employees work in the field on a daily basis. Sometimes this is done in pairs, but
employees often make home visits alone.
4. Only three County departments have some sort of internal policy when a violent act
occurs. These departmental policies have not been adopted by the Legislature and are not
recognized as formal County policies.
5. Most County worksites are public buildings and are accessible to any individual for any
reason.
6. The County does not own some of the County worksites. Changes to building structures
could prove problematic for these worksites.
7. Some worksites, like the Courthouse, Cortland Career Works, and the Planning building
house employees who work for other agencies, both private and public. These agencies
may or may not have policies of their own.
The team identified specific issues that could lead to potentially harmful situations in
almost all County worksites. The team also questioned the department head or supervisor about
11
the security of their worksite. Some shared specific incidents that are relevant in the study of the
existence or non-existence of workplace violence. In some cases, department heads and
supervisors stated that workplace violence is a non-issue in Cortland County. They stated that
their department or worksite had not experienced any problems and seemed apathetic to the
topic. They said that the chances of it happening were unlikely. Other administrators, however,
experienced workplace violence firsthand and seemed genuinely concerned for their employees'
safety, particularly based upon historical events, such as the following:
Horizon House: in 2008, a mentally ill client physically backed an employee into a
corner in her office and attempted to assault her. She was unable to get to the door, but yelled to
a co-worker, who called the City Police.15
Recycling Center: in 2002, an arsonist burnt down the recycling center. It has since
been rebuilt.16
Probation: a probationer became very agitated during an appointment with his
Probation Officer. He stood in the doorway of the office and lit his skin on fire with his lighter.17
Area Agency on Aging: an employee grabbed a co-worker around the throat after a
1 R
verbal argument.
Social Services: an employee's estranged boyfriend attempted to come into the
department to speak to her. Security had been instructed not to let him enter the department. He
would not leave and pounded on the door with his fists.19
Social Services: an employee out on leave attended a social function where she saw a
co-worker whom she disliked. She grabbed the co-worker around the throat.20
15
16
18
Interview with Horizon House Director by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, March 12, 2009.
Interview with Highway Superintendent by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 11, 2009.
Jane Goldner, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, May 14, 2009.
Carol Deloff, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 13, 2009.
Kristen Monroe, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 23, 2009
12
Kristen Monroe, Social Services Commissioner, stated that her staff constantly receives
verbal threats from clients, but there have been no physical attacks from clients within the last
ten years. The most worrisome type of threats and attacks, she said, seem to be coming more
from co-workers. In addition to the examples above, there have also been incidents of co91
workers screaming at each other, which have typically resulted in disciplinary action.
Captain
Glenn Mauzy of the Cortland County Sheriffs Department stated that County Police Officers
often experience the "use of deadly force" by suspects. "Harassment by suspects against our
families and threats of law suits against us" are typical types of workplace violence that his staff
experiences. Additionally, correction officers often experience both verbal threats and physical
99
assaults when dealing with jail inmates.
According to County Administrator Scott Schrader, no reports of workplace violence
have been filed since he became County Administrator in 2003. Counties are required to file a
SH900 Report of Occupational Accidents and Injuries to the New York State Department of
Labor annually. He said that any incidents of this sort should have been filed on this report, and
none were.
Has workplace violence been an issue for Cortland County employees? The above
examples prove that it has. They demonstrate that workplace violence can come in many forms.
Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in
the work setting. A workplace violence prevention program identifies risks, creates and
implements measures to correct and/or minimize those risks, institutes a reporting procedure, and
20
21
22
23
Kristen Monroe, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 23, 2009.
Kristen Monroe, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 23, 2009.
Glenn Mauzy, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, July 10, 2009.
Interview with County Administrator by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, March 10, 2009.
13
provides for continuous monitoring of effectiveness of the program itself. The nature of public
employment in Cortland County varies in work setting, work duties and the potential for risk. As
of 2009, the County did not have a formal policy in place to assess or prevent these risks, even
though there have been incidents of non-fatal workplace violence at County worksites.
14
Chapter Two: Workplace Violence - A Tragic Reality
What has been the history of workplace violence in other municipalities and nationwide?
What factors contribute to workplace violence? What action has the government taken in
working towards preventing workplace violence?
According to a Workplace Violence Research Institute survey, approximately 16,400
workers are threatened, 723 workers attacked, and 43,800 workers harassed every workday.24
The most well known incidents of workplace violence occurred within the United States Postal
Service. One of the most infamous cases of workplace violence took place in Edmond,
Oklahoma on August 20, 1986 when Patrick Henry Sherrill, a mail carrier, entered the Edmond
Post Office and went on a shooting rampage, killing fourteen and injuring six, then turning the
gun on himself. At that time, it was the third worst mass murder by an individual in United
States' history. 25
SherrilPs supervisor verbally reprimanded him the previous day. Sherill thought that he
was going to lose his job due to the reprimand. After the incident, many co-workers stated that
they were not surprised that Sherrill would commit such heinous acts. They said, "Sherrill was,
in many ways, the prototypical potentially violent employee." 26 The term "going postal" was
born. Since this incident, The USPS launched an extensive preventative workplace violence
training program and has, per capita, fewer workplace violence incidents than many other
97
employers today.
Steve Kaufer and Jurg Mattman, Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide (Palm Springs, CA:
Workplace Violence Institute, 2001), 1.
2
S. Anthony Baron, Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for Businesses
(Oxnard, CA: Pathfinder, 1993), 73.
26
Ibid., 76.
27
Kathrene L. Hansen, Anxiety in the Workplace Post-September 11, 2001 (The Public Manager, 2002), 31.
15
Workplace violence often results in homicide. During the last decade, homicide was the
third leading cause of death for all workers and the leading cause of occupational death for
women employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries states
that there were 631 homicides in United States' workplaces in 2003.28 This represents a 42
percent decrease since 1994, when workplace homicides numbered over 1,000 annually. In 2006,
the BLS statistics showed that homicides were down again, at a record low of 516. Many believe
that these homicide figures decreased due to employers' prevention efforts in the 1990's.29
Workplace violence accounted for 18 percent of all violent crimes between 1993 and 1999. 30
The following represent some shocking incidents of fatal workplace violence:
1.
Tennessee - On March 8, 1999, firefighters responded to a fire call at the residence of
one of their fellow firefighters. Fred Williams, owner of the home, had set the house
on fire. Before firefighters were able to start extinguishing the flames, Williams came
out of the house with a shotgun. He fired at and killed two firefighters and a sheriffs
deputy. His wife was killed in the fire. He had recently returned to work after being
on a medical leave of absence.
2.
Santa Ana, California - Arturo Torres was fired on the grounds of dishonesty from
the California State Department of Transportation. Torres entered the state
department yard in December of 1997, two months after being fired, and shot and
killed his supervisor and three coworkers.
3.
Watkins Glen, New York - Schuyler County Department of Social Services sought
John Miller for payment of child support. The Department named Miller as a child's
father on behalf of the mother. Miller insisted he was not the child's father. On
28
29
30
Littler Mendelson, P.C., 1988.
Rebecca A. Clay, Securing the Workplace: Are Our Fears Misplaced? (Monitor on Psychology, 2000), 2.
Littler Mendelson, P.C., 1988.
16
October 15, 1992, he walked into the Support Collection Unit and shot and killed one
supervisor and three support staff. The deduction from his paycheck was to start at
$10 per week. 31
Non-fatal workplace violence is a more pervasive threat than homicide. Between 1.5 and
2 million incidents of non-fatal workplace violence occur annually. This figure does not include
arguments, threats, harassment, or intimidation. There is no accurate way of measuring these
forms of violence. Workplace bullying is a form of non-fatal violence. Schools nationwide have
adopted bullying policies in response to the aftermath of school shootings that named the
perpetrators as targets of bullying. In 2008, thirteen states were in the process of attempting to
pass legislation in this regard. Targets of bullying statistically have high incidents of both mental
health and other medical problems.33 Employees who are subjected to such behavior at their
workplace are often left unprotected by their employer.
Whether fatal or non-fatal, employers are obligated to protect their employees from
harmful incidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Act's General Duty Clause requires
employers to provide a safe work environment for employees free of known hazards. Employers
and employees alike have recognized workplace violence as a known hazard.34 Employers are
responsible for acts committed against employees in the workplace no matter who commits it.
Studies have shown that the main contributors to workplace violence include:
31
Richard V. Denenberg and Mark Braverman, The Violence-Prone Workplace: A New Approach to
Dealing with Hostile, Threatening and Uncivil Behavior (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 41-59.
32
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, The New York State Workplace Violence
Prevention Act, (NYCOSH, 2008).
33
Bully Online, "Stress Injury to Health Trauma, PTSD," http://www.bullyonline.org/stress/health.htm
(accessed December 4, 2008).
34
"The Financial Impact of Workplace Violence," http://www.workplaceviolence911 .com (accessed October
29, 2008).
17
1.
Employers not taking threats seriously. Employers should investigate every threat, no
matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.
2.
Employers practicing negligent hiring, supervision and retention. Employers who do
not address aggressive behavior or who fail to check employees' backgrounds are
more likely to experience workplace violence.
3.
Substance Abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, drug and alcohol
related problems cause one in four workplace violence incidents.
4.
Layoffs and downsizing. With the advent of the global economy and the current
economic state of the nation, more and more employees are losing their jobs. This
causes anger and frustration and can lead to violent incidents.
5.
Domestic violence. According to Victim Services of New York, 74 percent of victims
of domestic violence are harassed at work by their abusers.
6.
Ethnic differences. Language and cultural barriers often create misunderstandings and
cause disagreements between employees.
Lawmakers, researchers and attorneys watch how employers handle matters of workplace
violence.36 In "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability," Bradley Hall stated that claims
of negligent hiring and retention are on the rise.37 Courts often rule in favor of the plaintiff,
particularly when evidence demonstrates that inadequate background or reference checks were
35
Chuck Mannila, "How to Avoid Becoming A Workplace Violence Statistic," T&D, Vol 62, Issue 7 (July
2008): 62-64.
36
Roberto Ceniceros, ""Workplace Violence Rate Continues to Decline," Business Insurance 42, no. 36
(September 2008): 4-6.
37
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
18
made, or that the employer had prior knowledge of a violent act. The cost to employers for
lawsuits alleging employer negligence has increased from $800,000 in 1995 to almost $2 million
currently.39
Are there laws that govern workplace violence? With the exception of OSHA's General
Duty Clause, no federal legislation requires employers to take specific steps to prevent
workplace violence. OSHA has implemented voluntary guidelines for certain professions, such
as health care, but to date, law has not mandated these guidelines. Additionally, there is no
consistent set of standards in the states concerning workplace violence. Some state laws do
address the concern in certain professions, like health care, and certain workplaces, such as retail
settings at night. Recently, some states have mandated workplace violence programs, mandated
certain reporting procedures, or mandated the study of the topic. Currently, the following states
have enacted legislation: Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, North
Carolina, Rhode Island, Nevada and West Virginia. 40
Of these ten states, only five have enacted legislation pertaining to employees other than
just those in the health and mental health care workplace settings - Nevada, Maine, Washington,
North Carolina and New York. The remaining five states have enacted legislation pertaining only
to health care and mental health employers. Only two states acted in 2008. Hawaii passed
legislation affording protection of health care workers, and New York's legislation supplemented
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
Ibid.
40
American Nurses Association, "Workplace Violence," http://www.nursingworld.org (accessed December
3, 2008).
19
previous 2006 law requiring public health employers to implement a workplace violence
prevention program.41
New York State is currently the only state that has passed legislation mandating
employers other than health or mental health employers to create and implement a program.
Illinois is the only state that has legislation pending. The state of Illinois designed a 2-year pilot
program in 2006 for training with the goal of expanding to adoption of a program by January 1,
2008. Further legislation has yet to be passed.42
New York State passed The New York State Workplace Violence Prevention Law on
June 7, 2006, creating Section 27-b of State Labor Law. It requires public employers, with the
exception of schools, which are covered under education law requirements, to "perform a
workplace evaluation or risk evaluation at each worksite and to develop and implement programs
to prevent and minimize workplace violence caused by assaults and homicides." An amendment
to the law was enacted on August 16, 2006, extending the effective date of the law to March 4,
2007.43 On April 29, 2009, the law was promulgated and published in the State Register as final
rule. The rule outlined the following dates by which public employers had to take certain
measures:
May 29, 2009 - policy statement completed
June 29, 2009 - risk evaluation and determination completed
July 14, 2009 - workplace violence prevention program completed
41
American Nurses Association, "Workplace Violence," http://www.nursingworld.org (accessed December
3, 2008).
42
American Nurses Association, "Workplace Violence," http://www.nursingworld.org (accessed December
3, 2008).
43
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008)
20
August 27, 2009 - employers should be in total compliance'
This law requires public employers to perform a risk evaluation of their workplace to
examine the presence of factors or conditions that could potentially put an employee at risk. It
requires the employer to inspect each worksite to determine such possible risks. The New York
State Department of Labor has set guidelines outlining specifically what the risk assessments
should evaluate. These items include an examination of past incidents that have occurred in the
workplace, a review of occupational injury and illness logs (SH 900), a survey of employees'
thoughts and concerns about workplace violence, and a physical inspection of workplace
buildings and their surroundings.45 The NYS DOL has set forth additional guidelines to assist
public employers with the development of a workplace violence prevention program. These
recommendations include a sample policy, record keeping and reporting requirements,
prevention methods, and complaint/incident response procedures.46
As of 2009, the Municipality of Cortland County had yet to create or implement a
workplace violence prevention program to comply with Section 27-b of State Labor Law. Many
New York State municipalities have implemented a program to comply with the law. Comparing
other municipalities' programs to the state guidelines and taking other factors into consideration
is necessary in order for Cortland County to create and execute a competent and useful program.
Significant elements of workplace violence prevention program, as outlined by the NYS
Department of Labor, are as follows:
44
PESH, "PESH Staff Directive," www.labor.state.nv.us/workerprotection (accessed November 3, 2009).
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetyhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
46
Ibid.
45
21
Policy Statement: introduces the policy and informs readers of the intent of the policy.
Typically, a policy statement will outline what the policy intends to address and how it will go
about doing so. In addition, this section may also outline specific acts that are prohibited. A zero
tolerance policy has typically been stated in this section.
Policy Definitions: are terms used within the policy that need clarification in order to be fully
understood. In this case, definitions such as workplace violence, workplace, domestic violence,
intimidation and stalking may be some words that need further explanation in regards to the
scope of the policy.
Justification/Objective: what does implementation of the policy want to achieve? Why does the
policy need to exist? An explanation of the need for a workplace violence prevention policy
would be included in this section. Additionally, the amendment of NYS Labor Law requiring
public employers to create and implement a policy and program should also be included here.
Threat Assessment Team: is a group of individuals deemed appropriate to carry out the tasks
needed in order to evaluate risks and suggest solutions. According to NYS Guidelines, this team
should be made up of department heads and managers, both union and non-union, if applicable,
elected officials and the Safety or Risk Management Officer. This section should state what the
team will be responsible for doing within the scope of the policy.
Risk Evaluation: outlines potential safety hazards as identified by the Threat Assessment Team.
This section should clearly spell out the potential problems found in each worksite.
Workplace Security Checklist: is the form to be used by the Threat Assessment Team in
examining and determining potential risks to the municipality.
22
Prevention Methods: outline possible ways to prevent dangerous incidents from occurring in
relation to the potential hazards listed in the risk evaluation. This section should include physical
methods, such as security and lighting, as well as intangible methods, such as training of
employees.
Training/Education: should be a significant portion of a prevention plan. This area should
detail how the municipality intends to train existing and future employees on workplace violence
prevention methods, including how to identify and de-escalate a potentially violent individual.
Employee Assistance Programs: are found to be helpful when employees can immediately
access them without any barriers. These programs provide professional counseling on a
confidential basis. This should be an essential component of any workplace violence prevention
program when attempting to support an employee who is under mental duress. This section
should state how the employee assistance program is accessed and state that the municipality
strongly encourages its use.
Bullying: is considered a form of violence and may be included in a workplace violence
prevention program. Some entities have included this in their workplace violence policy. If this
is done, a comprehensive approach to any type of harassment can be taken, with the inclusion
specifically of bullying.
Access Control: is the ability to have power over how an individual gains entry into a worksite
and who has the authorization to gain entry into a worksite. This section should examine how
many points of entry are actually needed, not wanted, to each building. Measures to limit access
to unauthorized personnel should be outlined. Systems such as alarms, panic buttons and
detection systems should be discussed.
23
Identification: involves the mandatory display by each employee of an official identification
badge at each corresponding worksite. Methods such as displaying the identification to security
personnel or a swipe-card system in order to gain entry into the worksite should be discussed. An
identification badge procedure should be included in this section stating the significance of
keeping identification current and reporting loss identification to the appropriate personnel.
Weapons Policy: should be clearly stated within the workplace violence prevention policy.
Some positions, such as law enforcement, are required to carry weapons in relation to their job
duties. However, most employees should not be allowed to carry any type of weaponry while
working. This policy would carry over to the public upon entry into any of the worksites as well.
Bomb Threat Protocol: can be included if deemed appropriate. Such a protocol would outline
the procedure to be followed if a bomb threat is called in to a worksite. This policy should state
specifically who should be notified and what precautions can be taken.
Sexual Harassment: is a form of workplace violence. Some entities have included this in their
workplace violence policy. If this is done, a comprehensive approach to any type of harassment
can be taken, with the inclusion specifically of sexual harassment.
Reporting Procedure: should detail exactly how an individual can report a violation of the
workplace violence prevention program. This section should explain what happens once a threat
is reported. Additionally, a statement regarding false reporting should be included.
Workplace Incident Report: is the form that should be used to report an incident and should be
included within the policy itself.
24
Confidentiality: of the reporter of the incident as well as the alleged perpetrator of the incident
should be kept. Inclusion of a statement stating that confidentiality of all investigations will be
kept. Anonymous incident reporting should also be discussed.
Discrimination/Retaliation: against an individual reporting an incident under the workplace
violence prevention policy will not be tolerated. This section should outline the investigation into
and ramifications thereof of any acts of discrimination or retaliatory behavior arising from
incident reporting.
Record keeping: should be completed on all reported incidents. A specific procedure that
includes how, when, and where records of incident reporting and investigations of such incidents
should be kept.
Employee Notification: needs to be done in order to ensure awareness of the program. This
section should summarize the method by which all employees will be informed of the workplace
violence prevention policy.47
An organization needs to evaluate and measure each of the above recommendations
provided by the New York State Department of Labor against the needs of the organization
before a policy and program is written. All of the factors above may not be necessary or relevant
to an organization's goals. For example, Cortland County has a current sexual harassment policy
that stands alone. Would it be more effective coupled with a workplace violence prevention
program? The County needs to identify the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating that
specific policy into a more comprehensive one.
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.ny.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH iNDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
25
According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, "experience
has shown that when employers evaluate the safety and health hazards in their workplaces and
implement employee protection programs, the incidence of workplace injuries is reduced." The
only way to reduce rates of workplace violence is to work towards preventing the causes of it.
The problem lies in determining such causes: some are well known; some are yet to be
discovered.
Employees have always suffered from incidents of workplace violence. It is only in the
last three decades that the issue has come to the forefront. Just this year, a student at Yale
University allegedly killed another student on campus, and a gun-wielding man at the American
Civic Association in Binghamton, New York allegedly killed at least thirteen employees and
students. These incidents prove that workplace violence still exists and that employers are not
taking enough precautionary measures to address warning signs. Employers often ignore the
factors that contribute to workplace violence, like not taking threats seriously and negligence in
hiring and supervision. Many states are in the process of drafting legislation that requires
employers to implement a prevention program. As of 2009, New York State is the only state to
pass such legislation. This legislation, however, only mandates public employers to implement
programs and does not address private employers.
48
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, The New York State Workplace Violence
Prevention Act, (NYCOSH, 2008).
26
Chapter Three: Best Practices
According to Human Resources and Health and Safety experts, what are some of the best
practices to prevent workplace violence?
Workplace violence happens. It happened decades ago and it happens now. Today, media
coverage of workplace violence is everywhere. People are more aware of its existence and
employers need to respond. Lower rates of workplace violence are directly correlated with two
things: "effective grievance, anti-harassment, and security programs, and higher levels of job
satisfaction."49 Risk managers, human resource professionals and labor organizations state that a
formal workplace violence program must be created and implemented in order to achieve these
things. They cite the following as key components of a workplace violence program:
1. A publicized zero tolerance or zero incident policy
2. Training for all employees in conflict resolution and detecting the warning signs of
potentially violent situations and individuals
3. An easily accessible Employee Assistance Program
4. Physical security controls
5. Work environment that encourages open lines of communication between
management and staff
6. Pre-screening of potential employees
Zero Tolerance/Zero Incident Policy
According to guidelines put forth by the New York State Department of Labor's Division
49
Chuck Mannila, "How to Avoid Becoming A Workplace Violence Statistic," T&D, Vol 62, Issue 7 (July
2008): 64.
27
of Safety and Health, an employer should commit to a policy of "zero tolerance" of workplace
violence.5 What exactly is zero tolerance and how does it apply to employers in their prevention
efforts? "The phrase 'zero tolerance' signifies a philosophy toward illegal conduct that favors
strict imposition of penalties regardless of the individual circumstances of each case."51
Ronald Reagan's administration first utilized the practice of zero tolerance to fight drugs
in schools and among children in the early 1980's. Since then, schools utilize it consistently in
their efforts to protect children. Currently, two federal laws regarding the illegal use of drugs and
weapons employ the practice of zero tolerance, but many states have also adopted its use when
looking to send a strong measure of deterrence. A policy of zero tolerance allows no room for
ambiguity in the penalty. This type of policy treats each individual the same.
Critics point out that this is the problem with the idea of zero tolerance. They say
employers cannot and should not treat each individual who commits a wrongful act in the same
manner. Employers should examine each case individually and should assess punishment based
upon each separate incident. In The Violence-Prone Workplace, Richard Denenberg states that a
one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective and can result in unfair punishments, often to both parties
involved. Both arbitrators and unions question the use of zero tolerance in its relation to
punishment of employees. A zero tolerance policy often suggests a knee-jerk reaction, rather
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workpeiprotection/safetyhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
The Free Dictionary, http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com (accessed October 15, 2009).
52
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetyhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
28
than an analytical approach to punishment. Therefore, employers repeatedly lose judgments in
CO
cases where an employee has been disciplined under its harsh guidelines.
According to W. Barry Nixon in "Zero Tolerance is Not Enough: Making Workplace
Violence Prevention Really Work," zero tolerance policies are most effective when their
parameters are well defined. "It's easy to state that you have a zero tolerance policy; it's another
thing to really think through what it means."54 Therefore, employers should define a policy's
goals and consistently follow its consequences. According to Nixon, an employer has a choice
when implementing this type of policy. Employers may also utilize a "zero incident" approach.55
A zero incident policy seeks to prevent, rather than to react. This policy concentrates on
identifying risk factors, both behavioral and structural, and seeks to correct these hazards before
an incident can take place. Employers must face the possibility that a workplace violence
incident could happen at their place of employment in order to develop such a preventative
approach. Frank Kenna III, President of The Marlin Company who commissioned a recent
Gallop study, said, "The warning signs are well known, but too many companies are burying
their heads in the sand."56 According to this study, many employers state that they do not want to
overreact and cause their employees to become fearful by addressing the possibility of an
en
occurrence that will, in all likelihood, never occur.
In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, the Supreme Court ruled that employers must
prevent, not just react to, workplace violence. Plaintiff Beth Ann Faragher worked for the City as
53
Richard V. Denenberg and Mark Braverman, The Violence-Prone Workplace (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1999), 180.
54
W. Barry Nixon, "Zero Tolerance is Not Enough: Making Workplace Violence Prevention Really Work,"
http://www.hrtutor.com (accessed October 14, 2009).
55
Ibid.
The National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, "The Financial Impact of Workplace
Violence," http://www.workplaceviolence911 .com (accessed February 1, 2009).
57
Ibid.
29
a lifeguard. After leaving employment, she sued the City alleging that her supervisors had
created a sexually hostile work environment by making lewd remarks towards her and touching
her inappropriately. She contended that these actions constituted discrimination in her terms of
employment under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The District Court ruled that the supervisors'
conduct was discriminatory harassment and that the City was liable because it had knowledge of
the behavior. The Court found that the City had not distributed its sexual harassment policy to its
employees. "The Court holds as a matter of law that the City could not be found to have
exercised reasonable care to prevent the supervisors' harassing conduct."58 Under this premise, a
zero tolerance policy that stands alone is not adequate. A combination of a zero tolerance and a
zero incident policy may help employers create a workplace that is safe and free from harm.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
According to S. Anthony Baron, PhD, in Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and
Management Guide for Businesses, life for the average worker has changed in the last two
decades. The pace of life is quicker as a result of advanced technology. Workers are increasingly
challenged by their employers to keep up with the fast pace of their varying job duties along with
the demands of their personal lives.59 "Stress is now officially the number one cause of sickness
although 20 percent of employers still do not regard stress as a health and safety issue."
Employee assistance programs "provide the workplace with systematic means for
"Faragher v. City of Boca Raton," http://www.law.comell.edu (accessed November 9, 2009).
Baron, PhD, PsyD, S. Anthony, Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for
Businesses (Oxnard, CA, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993), 35.
60
United Kingdom National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, "Stress Injury to Health Trauma,"
http://www.bullvonline.org (accessed December 4, 2008).
59
30
dealing with personal problems that affect employees' job performance." An EAP includes an
assessment, a referral and a counseling program, all of which are generally voluntary and always
confidential. The employer typically pays for the cost of the services.62 These programs first
originated in the 1950's as a way for employees to deal with alcohol and drug-related
problems. 3 Since then, they have become much broader, focusing on a range of issues, including
behavioral problems and marital and family intervention. An EAP identifies problems that are
affecting an employee's work performance and assists the employee in finding a better way to
deal with these problems through the use of counseling and/or other mental health services.
EAP's also provide services for those employees who are fired or laid off to assist in coping with
the new burden of joblessness.64
In "Benefits That Can Help Prevent Workplace Violence," Larry Chavez states that
employers should incorporate EAP's into benefit plans to provide for a sense of security and well
being among employees. "Turning to an EAP may provide an outlet that keeps an employee's
problems from getting to the violent incident stage," Chavez stated. 65 According to Chavez, an
EAP works both preventatively and reactively. EAP's can provide for the following: (1) early
intervention, (2) identification of potentially violent employees, (3) training at all levels, (4)
facilitation of peer counseling, a process whereby fellow employees "counsel" one another, and
(5) post-incident counseling.66 In "EAP's: One Solution for Risk Managers," Drew Edwards
Gerald R. Ferris, M. Ronald Buckley and Donald B. Fedor, Human Resources Management: Perspectives,
Context, Functions and Outcomes, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2002) 512.
62
Larry J. Chavez, "Benefits That Can Help Prevent Workplace Violence," Employee Benefit Plan Review
(August 2003): 6.
63
Raymond A Noe, John R. Hollenbeck, Barry Gerhart and Patrick M. Wright, Human Resource
Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage, 6th ed. (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), 455.
64
Gerald R. Ferris, M. Ronald Buckley and Donald B. Fedor, Human Resources Management: Perspectives,
Context, Functions and Outcomes, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2002) 513-517.
65
Larry J. Chavez, "Benefits That Can Help Prevent Workplace Violence," Employee Benefit Plan Review
(August 2003): 6.
66
Ibid.
31
writes that risk managers generally agree that connecting a potentially unstable employee with a
compassionate and trained mental health professional can be the difference between a pleasant
working environment and a hostile one.67
An EAP can only work if employees use it. Access to the EAP must be easy and quick.
Therefore, Chavez recommends that the program allow for a self-referral and a referral by a
supervisor or the human resources department. Training on how to make a referral to EAP
services can result in higher usage of the program overall, thereby potentially preventing
incidents from occurring.
According to a study of more than 100,000 employees who took part in an EAP
administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Federal
Occupational Health Division, use of today's employee assistance programs result in decreased
absenteeism rates, improved working relationships and increased productivity.69 All of these
results point to a more satisfied and less stressed employee population. Providing employees
with outlets for their problems helps employers in their efforts to prevent workplace violence
incidents from occurring.
Training
Employee Assistance Program providers sometimes conduct employers' training
programs. Other employers use in-house trainers or rely on each department head to train the
employees in their own department. A 2006 survey conducted by the United States Department
Drew Edwards, "EAPs: One Solution for Risk Managers," Employee Benefits Report (April 2002).
Larry J. Chavez, "Benefits That Can Help Prevent Workplace Violence," Employee Benefit Plan Review
(August 2003): 6.
69
"Two Prescriptions for Preventing Violence," HRFocus (April 2000).
68
32
of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 38 percent of local government agencies
provided training on preventing workplace violence.70
The New York State Department of Labor recommends that employers base their training
programs on the idea of "Universal Precautions for Violence." According to this philosophy,
preparation and prevention work hand in hand. The NYS Department of Labor states that "one of
the most critical components of an agency's prevention program is knowledge of prevention
techniques through training."71 According to the New York State Department of Labor's
guidelines, employers should integrate training and education into a prevention program to
faciliate its goals. The NYS Department of Labor recommends that employers include the
following in their training curriculum:
1.
A review of the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program itself
2.
Risk factors identified
3.
Methods for employees to protect themselves
4.
Physical controls and/or safety procedures put in place by the employer
In "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," Steve Kaufer writes that, no matter
who facilitates the training, all levels of employees must participate. He states that company
executives, department heads/supervisors and subordinate staff must all be trained in the areas
listed above. In addition, employers should tailor training sessions to employees based upon their
work status. For example, training should present company officials with the legal and financial
70
United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention,
2005, Washington, DC, 2005.
71
USDA, "The USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention and Response," http://www.usda.gov
(accessed March 17, 2009).
72
New York State Department of Labor, "Workplace Violence Prevention for Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection (accessed December 10, 2008).
33
aspects of the problem of workplace violence. Employers' support of a program increases when
the consequences of not implementing it are shown.73
"Management's most important line of defense in preventing workplace violence is to
combine preventive Human Resources practices with close attention to the warning signs for the
prediction of violent behavior."74 Department heads and supervisors should constantly observe
their employees. For example, supervisors should look for employees showing signs of
dissatisfaction with their job, showing signs of lowered productivity, demonstrating low selfconfidence, or experiencing major financial or personal problems.75
According to the USDA's Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention, department
head/supervisory training should include proper methods to discipline employees, how to
encourage employees to report incidents, how to support employees who report incidents, and
basic emergency procedures. In addition, supervisors should receive basic leadership training
upon taking their leadership role, outside of the workplace violence prevention training.
Employers should equip supervisors with skills to address employee problems promptly and to
set clear goals and standards in order to effectively manage and direct their subordinates.76
Doug Kane, manager of Risk Control Strategies, a security and training company, states
that all employers should educate employees on the warning signs of potentially violent
individuals and how to resolve conflict. He stated that, "People don't suddenly 'just go crazy.'
Workplace violence is one of the few types of violent behavior that follows a clear pattern."77
According to Kane, workplace violence is almost always avoidable. One way to avoid it is to
73
Steve Kaufer, "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," http://www.workviolence.com (accessed
September 12, 2008).
74
Baron, PhD, PsyD, S. Anthony, Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for
Businesses (Oxnard, CA, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993), 115.
75
Ibid., 122.
76
USDA, "The USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention and Response," http://www.usda.gov
(accessed March 17, 2009).
77
Anne Fisher, "How to Prevent Violence at Work," Fortune, February 21, 2005, 42.
34
train employees on recognizing warning signs. In addition, employers should train employees
in ways to deal with hostile individuals, anger and stress management, and methods to deescalate and resolve conflicts. Training should make employees aware of the existence of the
employer's Employee Assistance Program and how to access it. Finally, training should
encourage employees to report incidents and should include the proper reporting procedure.79
Physical Security Controls
Physical security controls provide safety for employees and are an obvious step towards
preventing violence. Employers can protect employees by implementing security programs and
controls, thereby providing a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards, as
prescribed under the OHSA General Duty Clause. Recognizable hazards include things such as
poorly lit parking areas, open access to buildings, sharp items on desks, employees working
alone in the field, lack of communication devices, and lack of security staff.80
A 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey reported that only 9 percent of local
governments, like Cortland County, had any security measures in place. Fifty-seven percent of
workers were employed by an organization that did not provide a security staff. The most
common type of security measure used among employers that did provide security ranged from a
electronic surveillance, like alarms and motion detectors, to secured access to building entrances
through use of identification badge scanners or other form of employee verification.
Anne Fisher, "How to Prevent Violence at Work," Fortune, February 21, 2005, 42.
USDA, "The USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention and Response," http://www.usda.aov
(accessed March 17, 2009).
80
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, "The New York State Workplace Violence
Prevention Act," http://www.nvcosh.org (accessed September 12, 2008).
81
United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention,
2005, Washington, DC, 2005.
79
35
According to "The Financial Impact of Workplace Violence," employers can enhance
their security efforts in a number of ways. "Security Prevention through Environmental Design"
(SPTED) engineers building restructuring around the idea of crime prevention. For example, if a
building's electrical system is getting worked on, the employer should consider adding a closed
circuit security system at that time. The Department of Labor recommends that employers
implement engineering controls, such as installing drop safes, designing secure building access,
increasing lighting and installing security hardware, in work areas where needed.83
S. Anthony Baron, PhD, PsyD, writes that employers "should assess the current level of
security and related policy and procedures to make changes that will improve the security of the
work environment."84 As the NYS Department of Labor guidelines recommend, employers
should conduct physical risk assessments of worksites to identify physical hazards. Employers
should put control measures into place once hazards are identified. They should rectify identified
hazards to the extent possible. Employers should attempt to remove hazards altogether when
considering the most appropriate control measures. "When total elimination is not possible, try to
change the way the job is being performed, assigned or scheduled to reduce the hazard."85
Physical security controls are most effective when worksites are continuously monitored
and evaluated. Changes in building structure provide an opportunity for more corrections. For
example, when a suite of office is rearranged, the employer should determine if the exits to each
82
The National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, "The Financial Impact of Workplace
Violence," http://www.workplaceviolence911 .com (accessed February 1, 2009).
83
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
84
Baron, PhD, PsyD, S. Anthony, Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for
Businesses (Oxnard, CA, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993), 117.
85
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH_INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
36
office are without obstruction. Eliminating all physical hazards is impossible, and some physical
security controls will require long term planning, research and budgeting. Although it is
preferable that employers remedy hazards as quickly as possible, the reality of an employer's
financial situation may not always provide for an immediate correction of the problem.86
Work Environment
A 1997 NIOSH study showed that "psychosocial factors in the workplace were as strong
as so-called structural factors.. .when it came to predicting fear of violence, harassment and
threats in the workplace." This study revealed worksites with poor communication between
employees and unsupportive managers and co-workers were twice as likely to experience a
workplace violence incident. According to forensic psychologist Joel A. Dvoskin, PhD,
workplace violence programs must encourage a work environment where employees feel that
they are safe and that they are respected. "Businesses that create that kind of environment have
higher morale, have better productivity and make more money," he stated.88
According to Gerald Ferris, Ronald Buckley and Donald Fedor in Human Resources
Management: Perspectives, Context, Functions and Outcomes, 41 edition, effective
communication promotes a safe work environment. First, communication efforts between
management and subordinates can build and strengthen a trustworthy relationship between the
two. Second, if a trustworthy relationship ensues, employees are more comfortable in reporting
any potential problems that could result in violence. Finally, employees who are terminated from
86
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
87
Rebecca A. Clay, "Securing the Workplace: Are Our Fears Misplaced?" Monitor on Psychology, October
2000.
37
employment and become violent report that they did not take revenge just because they were
terminated. They stated that they became violent because of the way they were made to feel upon
being terminated. Employers should treat all employees, in every situation, with respect.89
In Violence in the Workplace, S. Anthony Baron, PhD, PsyD, states that there five
significant barriers to communication efforts:
1. Fear - besides fear of physical injury, employees also fear that reporting the violenceprone employee may increase the problems that the employee is having.
2. Anger - when employees disagree, anger may prevail in the form of shouting. This
type of communication is very counterproductive in a harmonious relationship.
3. Denial - problems do not usually go away if they are ignored. However, many
employees choose to deny problems because it is easier than addressing them.
4. Guilt - employees may feel that they are adding to the problems that the violenceprone employee is having. They may feel that reporting him or her would be harming
rather than helping.
5. Accommodation - employees who work closely together may not want their co-worker
to be disciplined and may cover up their problems for them. This is a form of enabling
that only prolongs the violence-prone employee's problems.90
According to Raymond Noe, John Hollenbeck, Barry Gerhart and Patrick Wright in
Human Resources Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage, 6th edition, the performance
appraisal is effective in promoting effective communication between managers and staff. It is
89
Gerald R. Ferris, M. Ronald Buckley and Donald B. Fedor, Human Resources Management: Perspectives,
Context, Functions and Outcomes, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2002) 498-499.
90
Baron, PhD, PsyD, S. Anthony, Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for
Businesses (Oxnard, CA, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993), 122-123.
38
typically used to assess employees' performance in relation to their duties, but also provides a
good opportunity for a manager and his/her employee to discuss other areas. It creates an
opportunity for an employee to disclose problems with his/her supervisor in a confidential
capacity. This opportunity can develop trust between the parties and demonstrate a manager's
willingness to listen. Many employers use this tool to point out an employee's weaknesses, but
managers should discuss an employee's weaknesses and strengths. * "It is when individuals feel
that management is untrustworthy and there are few mechanisms for airing grievances that
aggression has the potential to materialize."
Pre-screening of Potential Employees
Screening potential employees for violent tendencies and having knowledge about
employees' backgrounds are two of the most worthwhile things that employers can practice to
guard against volatile situations in the workplace. Forensic psychologist Harley V. Stock, PhD.,
stated that "distinguishing between workers who are potential murderers and those who are just
blowing off steam can be extremely difficult."
Although many people may threaten violence,
few actually commit it, he says. The most common risk factors for workplace violence include
working with the public, handling money, and working alone or at night, but every worker is at
risk. The key to minimizing the risk lies in the early detection of potentially violent employees
and/or hazardous working conditions.94
Raymond A Noe, John R. Hollenbeck, Barry Gerhart and Patrick M. Wright, Human Resource
Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage, 6th ed. (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), 343-351.
92
Gerald R. Ferris, M. Ronald Buckley and Donald B. Fedor, Human Resources Management: Perspectives,
Context, Functions and Outcomes, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2002) 498.
93
Rebecca A. Clay, "Securing the Workplace: Are Our Fears Misplaced?" Monitor on Psychology, October
2000.
39
Employers should develop a process for screening potential employees and use it
consistently. This process should include a review of the job application/resume in conjunction
with an interview, a criminal background check, verification of education/employment and
professional and personal reference checks. In "Haste Makes Waste - and Bad Hires," Cindy
Cathcart writes that verifying a job candidate's work history with previous employers can
demonstrate inconsistencies in a job application or resume. People often exaggerate or lie about
their experience. All employment history should be verified. A conversation with a previous
employer provides an opportunity to share any relevant information about the applicant with the
prospective employer, although most employers have a policy of giving only dates of
employment and position held to avoid future legal consequences.95
The Society for Human Resources Management recommends that employers obtain the
specific name of an individual who is responsible for verifying employment at a company, and
then send a written request to that individual. A study conducted by SHRM showed that 81
percent of organizations request verification information over the telephone, but only 50 percent
of organizations will give out information this way.96 Cathcart writes that verification of
education is equally as important. Employers like Cortland County require a copy of a diploma.
The internet is full of places that an individual can purchase a fake diploma. Therefore,
employers should contact educational institutions directly in order to verify an applicant's
education.97
A job applicant usually provides a list of references on his/her application or resume.
This list represents individuals whom the applicant knows will speak well of him/her. An
95
Cindy Cathcart, "Haste Makes Waste - and Bad Hires," Canadian HR Reporter, July 13, 2009, 16.
Steve Kaufer, "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," www.workviolence.com (accessed
September 12, 2008).
97
Cindy Cathcart, "Haste Makes Waste - and Bad Hires," Canadian HR Reporter, July 13, 2009, 16.
96
40
employer should perform its own professional reference checks by reaching out to past
supervisors, who may or may not be listed on the applicant's reference list.98 This technique
gives a prospective employer a chance to find inconsistencies, which may display something
about the applicant's character.
People often think "that to understand a person, we must know something about where
that person comes from."99 According to Ferris, Buckley and Fedor in Human Resources
Management, it is important to ask behavior-related questions in an interview, in addition to
asking the usual duty-related questions. For example, an interviewer may consider asking "how
often have you been angry with someone who took advantage of a co-worker?" or "how often do
your friends come to you for advice about personal problems?"100 These questions reveal how an
individual copes with others and assists employers in determining how that individual may
assimilate in the work environment.
According to the United States Department of Commerce, 30 percent of business failures
are linked directly to poor hiring decisions. It also found that more than 5 percent of employees
have some sort of criminal record.101 Criminal background checks are performed now more than
ever. The national unemployment rate as of September 2009 is 9.8 percent, up from 8.9 percent
in September 2008.
Employers are faced with more hiring choices. More people looking for
jobs create a higher chance for workplace violence to occur.
Cindy Cathcart, "Haste Makes Waste - and Bad Hires," Canadian HR Reporter, July 13, 2009, 16.
Gerald R. Ferris, M. Ronald Buckley and Donald B. Fedor, Human Resources Management: Perspectives,
Context, Functions and Outcomes, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2002) 195.
100
Ibid., 197-201.
101
"Employee Screening for a Safe and Productive Workplace," http://fyiscreening.com (accessed October 8,
2009).
102
Kaiser Foundation, http://www.statehealthfacts.org (accessed November 9, 2009).
99
41
In "Free: Background Checks," Diane Krebs writes that employers should conduct
criminal background checks if fiscally possible. Some laws prohibit the use of background
checks. Currently, no federal law prohibits employers from conducting a criminal background
check on prospective employees. The Equal Opportunity Commission ruled, however, that
disqualifying an applicant because of an arrest or conviction could violate the Civil Rights Act of
1964. In addition, Article 23-A of the New York State Corrections Law states that employers
may not discriminate against former offenders, although it does allow employers to inquire about
criminal convictions. Employers should seek legal counsel when making a decision about
performing background checks.
The best ways for employers to prevent workplace violence are to implement a zero
tolerance or zero incident policy, provide adequate training for all employees, provide a fully
comprehensive employee assistance program, implement physical controls, establish a
communicative work environment, and pre-screen all potential employees. According to human
resource professionals, risk managers and labor organizations, implementing all of these
practices will prevent violent incidents from happening.
103
Diane Krebs, "Free: Background Checks," New York Law Journal, March 23, 2009.
42
Chapter Four: The Responsibility for Violence
How and to what extent are employers liable for acts of workplace violence?
Victims often blame the employer when workplace violence incidents occur. "Interviews
with witnesses and .. .experts often cast the employer.. .as an evil-doer that knew or should have
known of the violent propensities of the guilty employee.. .and that steps to prevent the bad event
should have (been) taken."104 According to Bradley H. Hall, General Counsel and Risk Manager
at Idaho State University, the number one tip that employers can heed to avoid liability and
litigation is to institute a workplace violence prevention program.105
A United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics survey for a twelvemonth time period between September 2004 and June 2006, found that, though almost 5 percent
of private industry businesses in the United States reported a violent incident in their workplace,
only 9 percent of those businesses implemented a workplace violence prevention program after
the fact. At the time of this study, 70 percent of workplaces in the U.S. did not have an official
program to deal with violent acts in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control now
considers workplace violence to be categorized as an epidemic and calls it a high security
problem.106
After interviewing many Cortland County department heads, I concluded that at least half
were unconcerned with the potential for workplace violence and felt that the County did not need
to take preventative steps, because the County did not have a history of any "serious" workplace
violence incidents. Several, however, did see the need for a prevention program and would
104
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
Ibid.
106
Mesirow Financial, "Workplace Violence: Is it Part of Your Insurance Program?" October 5, 2004,
http://www.mesirowfinancial.com (accessed September 30, 2009).
43
advocate any steps necessary to implement one. These were generally department heads whose
employees worked with unstable clients. These supervisors also expressed a concern for the
liability of the County, especially in the current economic climate. As mentioned previously,
perpetrators of workplace violence can be strangers, clients, ex-employees or current employees.
This chapter examines employer liability in each of these situations, but focuses on incidents
where current employees are the perpetrators.
Employer Negligence
To what extent is an employer liable when a workplace violence incident occurs? A
victim of workplace violence can claim negligence if he/she can prove that the employer owed a
"duty of care" to the employee, that the employer breached the duty and that damage resulted
from the breach of duty. In order to demonstrate how and to what extent an employer is liable in
a workplace violence case involving an employee as the perpetrator, certain negligence theories
must be examined: negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, negligent retention
and negligent recommendation or referral.107 Courts often determine negligence if there is a
degree of "foreseeability" that the incident can or will occur. An incident is reasonably
10S
foreseeable if it is expected to happen from time to time and is not an unlikely occurrence.
A plaintiff alleging negligent hiring must prove that the employer knew or should have
known that the perpetrating employee posed a risk of harm to others. Employers are negligent in
hiring when they do not check references or ignore knowledge of previous incidents or criminal
convictions that display a propensity towards violence or otherwise show that the individual may
107
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1994.
108
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
44
be unfit for employment. Courts have ruled that employers may even look at an individual's
actions outside of the workplace when determining if a job applicant has violent tendencies.
9
In Harrington v. Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Veller,
a professor at Delgado Community College, raped a student named Harrington. Veller was
convicted of the crime and testified in a civil claim against the college. He stated that the college
never inquired into his background or checked to see if he had any prior criminal convictions. He
was, in fact, a felon who had served twenty months in prison for a combination of offenses,
including possession of marijuana with an intent to serve and grand larceny. At the time of his
charge for rape, he had an outstanding warrant against him in Illinois. Although the trial court
ultimately ruled that the college was not negligent in its hiring of him, the appellate court stated
that the college had a "duty to use reasonable care when hiring" its employees and that the
college's conduct was a "cause-in-fact" of the rape.110
"An employer whose employees are brought into contact with the public has a duty to
exercise care in the selection and retention of employees or the employer may be liable to an
injured third party under a theory of negligent hiring or negligent retention."111 As with negligent
hiring, an employer is liable for negligent retention when it becomes aware that an employee
may have violent tendencies, but continue to employ him/her. In these cases, courts have ruled
that an employer should investigate the employee's conduct and reassign or terminate the
employee, if appropriate.
109
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1995.
110
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdfCaccessed February 4, 2008).
Ibid.
112
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1997.
45
An employer is negligent in training and supervision when it does not take "reasonable
care" in providing sufficient training and supervision to an employee, particularly when a third
party is involved. A plaintiff has a claim if he/she can prove that the employer was insufficient in
providing training and supervision and that the lack of such resulted in harm to others.113
Is an employer responsible when a former employee commits a violent act at his/her new
workplace? Yes, if that employer provided a positive job reference to the current employer, or if
that employer did not disclose significant information in relation to the employee's violent
tendencies that may have resulted in the individual not getting hired. Cases of negligent referral,
also called negligent recommendation, often hinge on the aspect of "foreseeability." The liability
shifts from the current employer to the previous employer if an employee commits a violent act
at his/her workplace and the employer can prove that the employee's previous employer had
knowledge of the employee's violent tendencies.11
In Louviere v. Louviere, a police officer killed one person and injured several others. The
victims sued the police officer, along with the police chief and the former police agency for
which the police officer had worked. The former employer knew that the police officer had failed
a psychological test and had assaulted his girlfriend. It did not disclose this information upon
request from the current employer before a hiring decision was made. In this case, however, the
courts ruled that the former employer was not liable. The police officer took and passed a
psychological test before he was hired with the current employer. The case revealed that the
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1996-7.
114
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
46
current employer responded to the police officer's attack on his girlfriend and therefore knew of
the police officer's violent tendencies. The police agency hired him, even with this knowledge. l'
In addition to the theories of negligence outlined above, employers also need to know of
the "duty to warn," the theory of "respondent superior," and potential claims of intentional
infliction of emotional distress by employees. The obligation of a duty to warn originated from
the court case Tarasoffv. Regents of the University of California (1976). In this case, Poddar, a
student of the University of California, was obsessed with a woman named Tatiana Tarasoff, and
disclosed to a university counselor that he planned to purchase a gun. The counselor notified the
police who directed Poddar to stay away from Tarasoff. He did so for two months until he killed
her. Tarasoff s parents sued the university, but the courts dismissed the case. The parents
appealed to the Supreme Court of California. The courts found that the counselor, and the
university as the employer, had a "duty to warn" Tarasoff that Poddar had intentions to harm
her.116 Considered a landmark case, Tarasoffv. Regents of the University of California addresses
the issue of patient/client confidentiality. Although this theory generally involves therapists and
counselors, it has also been used to describe the duty of an employer to disclose information that
could affect an employee's safety.117
Under "respondent superior," a master/servant relationship exists between an employee
and an employer, resulting in a situation where the employer may be liable for the employee's
behavior acting on behalf of the employer.118 The employer is responsible for the acts of the
Bradley H. Hall, "Violence in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,"
www.isu.edu/ucounsel/pdf/wkplcviolence.pdf (accessed February 4, 2008).
116
North central Regional Educational Laboratory, "Duty to Warn," http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs (accessed
September 29, 2009).
117
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1998.
118
Steve Kaufer, "Corporate Liability: Sharing the Blame for Workplace Violence," Workplace Violence
Research Institute, http://www.workviolence.com/articles (accessed September 30, 2009).
47
employee when they are done within the scope of the employee's job duties.
When an
employee is the victim of violence at work, he/she may make a claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress. For example, in Gantt v. Security USA, a female employee had an order of
protection against her former boyfriend and notified her employer of the order. Despite this, the
employer assigned the employee to an area that was easily accessible by the public and allowed
the former boyfriend access to her. The boyfriend kidnapped her from work and raped her. The
court issued a summary judgment in favor of the employee's claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress and held that an employer could be liable where it allowed the perpetrator to
violate an order of protection held by an employee.120
In a similar case in Texas, the family of a female employee sued her employer under a
wrongful death action. The employee's former boyfriend had threatened to come to work and kill
her. The employer gave security guards at the workplace pictures of the boyfriend and instructed
them not to let him enter the building. The boyfriend walked right past the guards and killed the
employee. The courts ruled that the incident was foreseeable and awarded the victim's daughter
$800,000 and her parents $50,000.121
How Much Liability?
An employer is held responsible for its employees' actions when it is determined that the
actions were foreseeable. An employer is also held responsible when an employee is harmed due
to hazardous working conditions. Is there a difference in liability between the employer who is
not aware of hazards and the employer who is aware, but does little or nothing to correct them?
119
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
1999.
Ibid.
Semmes Attorneys at Law, "Preventing Violence in the Workplace," Labor & Employment Newsletter 2003, http://www.semmes.com/publications (accessed September 28, 2009).
121
48
Cortland County has not experienced a workplace violence incident that resulted in a
lawsuit or any claims of damages. Department heads expressed concern that the risk assessments
performed will uncover hazards that the County will be unable to remedy due to financial
constraints. If "you have a suspicion that something is wrong.. .you have more responsibility to
correct it," stated Brian Steinbeck, a lawyer who represents companies in workplace-related
•
117
•
litigation.
According to Semmes Attorneys at Law, employers are more likely to win a liability
case for workplace violence if a true attempt is made to keep employees safe. No attempt or
inadequate attempts are far more likely to result in an employer having to pay out a large
settlement to a victim of workplace violence than sincere attempts.123
According to "Preventing Violence in the Workplace," "when an employer voluntarily
provides security, a duty to provide adequate security is created."124 A North Carolina court
awarded $7.9 million to the families of two men who were shot and killed by a recently
terminated co-worker. The perpetrator said he was going to return to the workplace to "take
management with me." Courts awarded $415,000 to a victim's family in Illinois when an
employee shot and killed another employee in the employee parking lot. In both of these cases,
the courts stated that the employer-provided security was inadequate and that the employer was
11^
just as liable as if no security measures were provided at all.
"Broken security equipment or a
lapse in procedures in some cases can be the same as having no security at all."
Milo Geyelin, "Workplace Security - Whose Fault Is It?" Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (March
2002): R. 14.
123
Semmes Attorneys at Law, "Preventing Violence in the Workplace," Labor & Employment Newsletter 2003, http://www.semmes.com/publications (accessed September 28, 2009).
Ibid.
125
Semmes Attorneys at Law, "Preventing Violence in the Workplace," Labor & Employment Newsletter 2003, http://www.semmes.com/publications (accessed September 28, 2009).
126
Milo Geyelin, "Workplace Security - Whose Fault Is It?" Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (March
2002): R. 14.
49
Other Types of Liability
Employers need to take many precautions in the area of workplace violence. They need
to exercise due diligence in protecting their employees from harm, but also need to know of
liability claims that may occur when they charge an employee with committing an offense. An
employee can sue an employer for defamation of character, discrimination or wrongful
127
termination.
For example, in the case of Bailey v. Department of Defense, the employer terminated
Bailey from her job after she used profanity towards her co-workers. She threatened her coworkers and said that she was going to "tear them apart" and "take (them) down." Many of her
co-workers were scared of her. Bailey sued her employer, maintaining that her behavior was due
to her bipolar disorder and that her termination was too harsh a punishment. She further claimed
discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The administrative judge found that
Bailey did not prove her case of discrimination and that her termination was reasonable. Bailey
petitioned and received a review from the Board, but the Board ruled that "neither the
Rehabilitation Act nor the Americans with Disabilities Act immunize disabled employees from
being disciplined for misconduct in the workplace, provided the agency would impose the same
discipline on an employee without a disability."128 Therefore, the courts ruled Bailey's
termination a reasonable action by the employer.
Outsourcing and contracting out poses problems for employers when these providers do
not heed warning signs. Many employers, including Cortland County, contract with an outside
agency to provide Employee Assistance Programs. Employees are often referred to these
127
Littler Mendelson, P.C., Terror and Violence in the Workplace (2005-2006 National Employer, 2005),
2001-4.
128
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, "Significant Cases," Number 145, September 2002,
https://www.opm.gov (accessed October 20,2008).
50
programs free of charge if they present emotional problems to their supervisor, or if they feel that
they are in need of counseling in order to perform the duties of their job. NEAS Inc., one such
employee assistance program contractor, was sued in 2003 when Doug Williams, an employee of
Lockheed Martin, shot and killed six co-workers and then took his own life.129
Previous to the shootings, some of Williams' co-workers filed complaints that he had
threatened them. Lockheed Martin mandated Williams to complete a counseling program with
NEAS. NEAS referred Williams to their affiliate, Psychology Associates, and he was cleared to
return to work. Eighteen months later, he killed six co-workers. One of the victim's daughters
sued NEAS, not Psychology Associates. The case found that NEAS had not relayed significant
information to Psychology Associates about William's behavior. Although the settlement
amount was not disclosed, lawyers for the plaintiff stated that the "settlement would resolve all
outstanding issues in the case and was motivated by the pain the family was going through as it
prepared for trial."130
The Effect of Workers Compensation
When an employee is injured on the job, the claim for damages is typically covered under
workers compensation. But does workers compensation insurance cover claims incurred due to
acts of workplace violence? The answer to this question depends upon who the perpetrator of the
incident is. If the perpetrator of the incident is not an employee, the answer is yes. If the
perpetrator is an employee, the answer is usually no.
129
Joseph A. Slobodzian, "Counseling Against Violence," http://www.hreonline.com (accessed October 16,
2008).
130
131
Ibid.
Goliath Business News, "Violence in the Workplace," Mondaq Business Briefing, (September 30, 2004).
51
An exception to the second scenario, however, occurs when an employee commits a
violent act against a co-worker when acting outside of the scope of his/her job duties. Most
states' workers compensation laws include an "exclusive remedy" provision that prohibits
employees or their families from suing an employer for injuries resulting from acts committed by
another employer at the workplace. Courts have ruled that employees who suffer harm at the
hand of a co-worker who is not acting within the scope of his/her employment are not barred by
the exclusivity provision because such an individual is not considered a true employee for the
purposes of this law.132
An employer can end up paying the plaintiff(s) millions of dollars if it is guilty of
negligence or wrongful death and the violent act is not covered under workers compensation
insurance. According to a 1993 study by liability expert Norman D. Bates, cases of employer
negligence in hiring and retention have averaged $500,000 for out-of-court settlements and $3
million for cases that go to trial.133 Since 9/11, courts recognize more and more that the
perpetrator is not always the only entity responsible for wrongdoings. They realize employers
play a significant part in these incidents. Although many suits are limited under workers
compensation insurance as stated above, these limitations do not always apply in cases of gross
or intentional negligence. "Victims can always find a way to sue."134
Enter workplace violence insurance. According to Mesirow Financial, workplace
violence costs American businesses over $36 billion. This figure includes the cost of
productivity, counseling, injuries, legal fees and court awards. In addition, workplace violence
results in approximately 1.7 million days of lost work, and $55 million in lost wages each
Ibid.
Steve Kaufer, "Corporate Liability: Sharing the Blame for Workplace Violence," Workplace Violence
Research Institute, http://www.workviolence.com/articles (accessed September 30, 2009).
134
Milo Geyelin, "Workplace Security - Whose Fault Is It?" Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (March
2002): R. 14.
133
52
year.
There are three types of workplace violence insurance: (1) commercial general liability,
(2) employment practice, and (3) specialized insurance.136
Commercial general liability hinges around the existence of an "occurrence" and any
exclusions that may apply. It is generally used in allegations of negligent hiring, training, etc.
Employment practice insurance defines a "wrongful employment act," and is generally
determined to be things like harassment, wrongful discipline and termination. Specialized
products provide defense and indemnification of any intentional and unlawful violent act
committed by an employee on company property.137 The costs of these insurance policies range
greatly and are largely dependent upon the number of employees covered. For an employer with
one hundred employees, the annual premium is approximately $1,000 - $1,500 for a $1 million
per incident limit. For larger employers with over 2,500 employees, the annual premium is
between $4,000 and $5,000 with the same limit.138
The Risk Assessment
As outlined in Chapter One, Cortland County performed risk assessments of its worksites
in order to provide recommendations for its workplace violence prevention program. These
assessments are the initial step in recognizing the potential for harm. Once the risks are assessed,
employers should perform an assessment of vulnerability and impact to accurately predict how
the risks identified should be managed.139
"Vulnerability is defined to be a combination of the attractiveness of a facility as a
135
Mesirow Financial, "Workplace Violence: Is it Part of Your Insurance Program?" October 5, 2004,
http://www.mesirowfinancial.com (accessed September 30, 2009).
136
Timothy P. Law, "Insuring for Workplace Violence," Risk Management, http://www.rmmage.com
(accessed September 30, 2009).
137
Ibid.
138
Insure.com, "Workplace-violence insurance: Meeting an Unfortunate Need," http://www.insure.com
(accessed September 30, 2009).
139
W. Barry Nixon, "Assessing Workplace Violence Risk to the Business," Security (May 2009): 28.
53
target and the level of deterrence and/or defense provided by the existing mitigating measure,"
stated W. Barry Nixon.140 Worksites are targetable if easily compromised by a perpetrator.
Deterrence is measured by the degree of security, the likelihood of detection, the likelihood of
success and the possibility of escape. The combination of targetability and deterrence results in a
vulnerability determination of very high, high, moderate, or low.141
According to W. Barry Nixon in "Assessing Workplace Violence Risk to the Business,"
the impact of loss is categorized as follows:
1.
Devestating: worksite is beyond habitable use. The number of visitors to the
facility is reduced by up to 75 percent for a period of time. The attack on the
World Trade Center is an example of a devastating incident.
2.
Severe: worksite is partially damaged. The number of visitors to the facility may
be reduced by up to 50 percent. The shootings at Virginia Tech by a student could
be considered to be severe.
3.
Noticeable: worksite if temporarily unable to operate. The number of visitors to
the facility may be reduced by 25 percent. When employees are able to return to
work, they may be highly fearful.
4.
Minor: worksite is no significantly impacted. There are no injuries.
In "Accessing Workplace Violence Risk to Business," W. Barry Nixon states "due to the
low statistical risk of the occurrence of workplace homicide, a critical issue that is frequently
overlooked when assessing the risk of workplace violence is the impact if it does occur."
Assessments of vulnerability and impact may demonstrate that the potential risks to a worksite
140
W. Barry Nixon, "Assessing Workplace Violence Risk to the Business," Security (May 2009): 28.
Ibid.
Ibid.
54
are minimal. They may show the impact of loss as minor. Indeed, Cortland County has suffered
from no violent acts that resulted in death. Only a few have resulted in physical injury. The
majority has resulted in emotional distress. The probability of a devastating incident occurring in
Cortland County is unlikely. This is no reason to ignore the potential.
According to William Booth, president of Risk Management Associates, "It's not that
(employers) don't want to know. They don't want to know 'officially' because (they would have
to) do something as a result of the assessment."143 Many companies are not even aware that they
may need to provide a financial award to a victim of workplace violence. Some are aware but
choose to do nothing about it. There is no accurate way to measure what a prevention program
will prevent. With settlements in the millions, employers can no longer afford to bury their heads
in the sand. Even for those employers who feel that uncovering risks may somehow increase the
level of liability, the potential is too large to ignore. "An employer will be in a much better
position to defend itself in any lawsuit resulting from workplace violence if it can demonstrate
that, at the time of the violent encounter, the employer had adopted and implemented a violence
prevention program.
,,144
Employers are liable for workplace violence in many instances. Employer negligence in
hiring, supervision and retention is often blamed when a co-worker harms a fellow employee.
Victims may receive settlements in the millions when negligence is proven. Workers
compensation and workplace violence insurance cover some, but not all, costs of these lawsuits.
Many employers deny the potential for workplace violence and are apathetic to the topic. This
indifference is one reason for the growing number of lawsuits and is directly correlated with the
143
Milo Geyelin, "Workplace Security - Whose Fault Is It?" Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (March
2002): R. 14.
144
Semmes Attorneys at Law, "Preventing Violence in the Workplace," Labor & Employment Newsletter 2003, http://www.semmes.com/publications (accessed September 28, 2009).
55
relatively small number of employers that have instituted a workplace violence prevention
program.
56
Chapter Five: Recommendations for Program Implementation
What are the considerations that are influencing Cortland County's development of an
effective workplace violence prevention program? What are the potential costs to the County for
such program implementation?
"I'd rather be on the stand trying to defend why we did something, rather than trying to
defend why nothing was done," said Cortland County's Social Services Commissioner Kristen
Monroe during a 2009 interview. Monroe believes that an effective workplace violence
prevention program needs to be implemented for Cortland County employees. The Department
of Social Services employs approximately 130 of the County's 700 workers and, because of the
nature of the work performed, the Department's employees are at a greater risk for violence than
other County employees in other departments. After the 1992 incident in Watkins Glen, the
Schuyler County Department of Social Services chose to secure its worksite by placing law
enforcement personnel and a metal detector at the entrance to the department. Cortland County
followed suit.145
Monroe thinks that this set up gives workers a false sense of security. She stated that the
Schuyler County Department of Social Services, in spite of the 1992 incident there, did away
with the policy that law enforcement personnel guard their social services department in recent
years. In Cortland County, the Department of Social Services is located on the second floor of
the County Office Building. Therefore, social services clients can enter the building through any
of its nineteen entrances with no interference at all. It is only when they reach the Social Services
Department that they are subjected to security measures. Monroe stated that she has seen an
increasing number of clients with mental health conditions, creating the potential for violence to
145
Kristen Monroe, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 23, 2009.
57
occur. Workers in the basement, on the first floor, and on the third floor of the County Office
Building have no such protection against the clients visiting the building in order to receive
social services. 146
What do County employees think about the potential for workplace violence and the
existence of safety precautions at their worksite? The County Risk Assessment Team asked all
Cortland County employees to complete a voluntary survey (table 1) on the topic of workplace
violence. The survey lists forty questions in the following five areas: (1) management
commitment and employee involvement, (2) potential risk factors, (3) hazard prevention and
control, (4) training, and (5) incidents and reporting. It was a modified version of the survey
developed by the New York State Department of Labor; changes were made in order to be more
relevant to Cortland County specifically. Employees answered with responses of true, false, or
unsures. Out of approximately 700 County employees, 233 responded to the survey. The
following is the breakdown of the number of respondents and their corresponding departments
and worksites:
County Office Building
Department of Social Services
Health Department
Area Agency on Aging
Personnel
Board of Elections
County Administration
Buildings & Grounds
Information Technology
Treasurer's Office
Employment and Training
Legislature
Veteran's Office
Real Property Tax Services
51
22
30
5
3
1
15
2
2
3
1
1
3
Highway Garage
10
146
County Jail
1
Planning
2
Courthouse
Probation
County Clerk
District Attorney
8
10
3
Public Safety Building
Sheriffs Dept/911
Emergency Management
5
1
Horizon House
3
Mental Health Clinic
12
Kristen Monroe, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, April 23, 2009.
58
Thirty-nine employees completed surveys without identifying their department or worksite.
Although the County has twenty-one worksites, only three had a relatively high
percentage of employees respond: the County Office Building, the Mental Health Clinic and the
Courthouse. Unfortunately, employees of the Sheriffs Department, one of the County's largest
departments, returned few surveys. The following is important data to analyze in the creation and
implementation of a workplace violence prevention policy and program from the surveys
returned:
•
Most employees do not feel unsafe at work.
•
Most employees feel that they are treated with respect by co-workers.
•
Most employees feel that they are treated with respect by management, although slightly
less than those who feel they are treated with respect by co-workers.
•
62 percent of employees work with clients who have a history of violent behavior or
behavior disorders.
•
Just as many employees work in isolated areas as those who do not work in isolated
areas.
•
Almost half of employees' worksites did not restrict access and freedom of movement for
people who did not have a legitimate reason to be in the building.
•
Most visitors to worksites do not sign in or out.
•
More than half of employees did not know how to locate a communication device in an
emergency.
•
More than half of employees did not know what to do if there was a bomb threat.
•
More than half of employees have not been trained to recognize or handle violent
behavior.
59
•
75 percent of employees have not been trained in verbal de-escalation techniques.
•
43 percent of employees have experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from
strangers.
•
53 percent of employees have experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from
clients.
•
22 percent of employees have experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from
co-workers.
•
70 percent of employees said their department either had no internal workplace violence
prevention policy or did not know of one.
What do the survey results reveal? County employees' jobs require serving the public,
and the public's behavior cannot always be predicted. Peoples' actions, in general, cannot be
predicted. The surveys, along with the risk assessments performed by the County Risk
Assessment Team, show that there are a number of physical changes that the County could make
in order to reduce the likelihood of a workplace violence occurrence. What the surveys
show that the risk assessments cannot show is how employees feel about their own safety and
what they believe can be done about it. Although most employees stated that they feel safe at
work, most also stated that they work with potentially violent people and that their worksites are
predominantly unsecured. Most have not been trained to deal with potentially violent people and
have no idea if the County has a policy to educate them on the subject.
County employees will soon see the proposed workplace violence prevention policy and
program that they helped to create by completing the employee surveys. The County is in the
process of creating a workplace violence prevention policy and program in order to be in
60
compliance with Section 27-b of New York State Labor Law, which should be voted upon by the
County Legislature in the upcoming months. The proposed policy (attachment B), written by
Cortland County's Deputy Personnel Director Laurie Gosse, is in accordance with the guidelines
set forth by the New York State Department of Labor as outlined in Chapter Two. This policy,
while serving a mandated need, also serves as a communication tool for the employer to express
concern for the employees' safety. Additionally, it will assist Cortland County in taking a
preventative, rather than reactive, approach. Although Cortland County employees have
experienced few physically violent acts, there have been a significant number of other types of
workplace violence. The policy will address the consequences of all types of workplace violence
for employees, strangers and clients alike, while setting forth a specific reporting mechanism that
is currently lacking.
In conjunction with the policy, the new program calls for changes to building structures
and changes to existing procedures. The risk assessments recommend physical changes to most
worksites, but it is unlikely that the County Legislature will vote to dedicate enough funds to
correct each worksite. Therefore, the final proposal will include a recommendation to focus on
the worksite that houses the most employees and receives the most visitors. As indicated by
figure 1, approximately 357 employees work in the County Office Building. The building is
visited by at least 400 members of the public per day. The County Office Building has always
been the target for proposed changes when the topic of security for County employees has arisen
in the past. Unfortunately, no physical preventative measures to ensure employee safety have
been instituted with the exception of the placement of law enforcement and metal detectors in the
Social Services Department.
61
Brian Parker, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, stated that the only valid way to
secure the County Office Building is to limit and/or restrict access to it. Since it is a public
building, the County cannot block entrance to it, but can restrict access to it. This is already
being done on the second floor at the entrance to the Department of Social Services. Two law
enforcement officers currently check each visitor to this department and require them to pass
through a metal detector. Parker recommends that the County move these law enforcement
personnel, along with the metal detector, to the only handicapped accessible entrance to the
building. All visitors to the building should enter and exit there. Employees should enter through
one other dedicated entrance. They would need to enter a code or use a swipe card in order to
gain access to the building this way. The County should lock all other exits and entrances and
used these for emergencies only.
The County Courthouse is secured in the exact fashion as described above. Prior to 2008,
employees and visitors to the building shared the same entrance. Law enforcement personnel
were located approximately 100 yards from the entrance, allowing visitors to the Probation
Department to enter the building without going through security measures. In 2008, a visitorsonly entrance was created and law enforcement personnel were moved there. The other main
entrance was then redesigned, allowing access for employees only, requiring them to use a
keypad to gain access for entry.147
Probation Director Jane Goldner feels that this is an effective set up and ensures safety
1 AH
for her employees, whose clients are current or past criminals.
The cost of restructuring the
courthouse in this manner was $13,381. This included $5,520 for the new employee door, $1,861
for a security camera, and $6,000 for a keypad and alarm system, according to Parker. He stated
147
148
Brian Parker, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, June 12, 2009.
Jane Goldner, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, May 14, 2009.
62
that the County would spend approximately the same amount to restructure the County Office
Building in a similar fashion.149
An additional material recommendation is to install panic buttons at Horizon House.
Currently, two County worksites have installed such alarm devices: the County Office Building
and the Mental Health Clinic. In these buildings, each department has at least one panic button.
Departments with many employees have at least one in each office area. These devices alert the
County Sheriffs Department, including the security officers outside the social services
department, to an incident. To activate the panic button, employees only need to press it once.
Law enforcement personnel are immediately dispatched to investigate and deter or stop the
incident. Rob Corpora, the County's Information Technology Director, stated that it cost
approximately $30,000 to install panic buttons throughout the County Office Building. His
department maintains the system and performs monthly checks to ensure that it is working
properly.150
The Horizon House serves mentally ill adults. Many have been referred to the program
upon being charged from the inpatient psychiatric unit at the local hospital. Others have ongoing
open cases with the Mental Health Clinic and are mandated to receive services. Although only
three out of six Horizon House employees returned their surveys, all three commented about the
absence and need for panic buttons. One serious incident between an employee and a client
occurred there recently which may have benefited from the use of panic buttons.151
Although the percentage of Cortland County employees who have experienced a violent
act or threat of a violent act by strangers or clients is greater than those who have experienced
149
150
151
Brian Parker, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, June 12, 2009.
Robert Corpora, e-mail message to Laurie Gosse, September 15, 2009.
Interview with Horizon House Director by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, March 12, 2009.
63
such an incident with a co-worker according to the employee surveys, some department heads
believe that the co-worker to co-worker type of workplace violence is increasing and needs to be
addressed more aggressively than the other types. Additionally, the potential for this type of
workplace violence to be reduced is greater due to a greater awareness of the type of individual
being hired and employed. Employees interact with each other every day and become aware of
each other's personalities and tendencies. This is not usually possible with clients or the public.
To address department heads' concerns about the co-worker type of workplace violence,
two specific items are proposed: (1) change the existing procedure for filling vacant County
positions, and (2) provide relevant initial and annual training to every employee in recognizing
potentially dangerous situations, conflict resolution and verbal de-escalation techniques.
According to Personnel Director Annette Barber, only potential law enforcement, mental
health and hospice workers are currently required to undergo a criminal background check. This
requirement is due to mandatory regulations by the overseeing state departments. This represents
approximately twenty percent of the County's total employees. The remaining 80 percent go
unchecked, including social services and most health department employees. Since there is no
mandate requiring a background check on these employees, none is done.152 In order to
adequately minimize the potential for co-worker violence, a background check on all potential
employees should be done.
Barber stated that the most efficient way to perform a criminal background check is to
use a system called Live Scan, where the individual's fingerprints are recorded digitally, then
sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York State Division of Criminal
Justice Services (DCJS) for inspection. This process takes only a few days. Another way to
perform a criminal background check is to do an "ink and roll" of an individual's fingerprints.
152
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
64
The fingerprints are then mailed to the same two agencies, the FBI and DCJS. The turn around
time on ink and roll fingerprints is anywhere from two weeks to two months.153
On July 22, 2003, Governor George Pataki signed Chapter 164 of the Laws of 2003,
which amended several sections of the law including Section 50(4) of the Civil Service Law. The
law gives municipalities, like Cortland County, the authority to require that job applicants submit
to a state and national criminal background check. According to the New York State Department
of Civil Service, "individuals found to have criminal histories that bar their appointment to the
position sought would then be disqualified by the municipal civil service agency."154 Monroe
would like to see criminal background checks done on all potential employees to her department.
Other department heads stated that they thought it was a good idea to implement an additional
prescreening tool for potential employees, even if it meant that it would take longer to fill their
positions.
Cortland County has the authority to require that background checks be done on
prospective employees and some department heads have advocated for it in the past. Why has it
not been done? There are two significant reasons: liability and cost. What parameters must the
County abide by when prohibiting an individual from consideration for a job because of their
criminal background? What liability is upon the County when an employee is hired with a
known conviction if an incident occurs? It would be relevant to disqualify a candidate for a
position as a Caseworker in the Child Protective Services Division if they had a conviction for a
child-related crime. It is much more difficult, however, to make such a decision when the job and
the conviction are not directly related. For example, could the County disqualify a "Meals on
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
NYS Department of Civil Service, Municipal Service Division Circular Letter 14-03, Albany, NY, 2003.
65
Wheels" driver who delivers meals to homebound senior citizens for consideration if he/she had
been convicted of petit larceny twenty years ago as a 19-year-old?
In order to implement a policy of requiring that a criminal background check be
performed on every potential employee, the County should establish an internal system of
guidelines to assist in the determination of relevance between job duties and crime committed.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services set forth guidelines to be used for
social services agencies that choose to implement a criminal background check for prospective
child protective services staff.155 These were used as a reference to create guidelines for the
County upon implementation of the background check policy proposed (attachment C). The
County should adhere to these guidelines consistently in order to protect the County against
liability in hiring practices and should also comply with Article 23-A of Correction Law, which
encourages the licensure and employment of individuals with criminal convictions.156
Cost is often the deciding factor when policies are introduced for implementation.
Criminal background checks cost anywhere between $18 (ink and roll method) to $120 (Live
1 S7
Scan method).
Currently, of the positions that already require a background check, the County
pays for law enforcement and hospice, but the New York State Office of Mental Health funds the
checks on mental health employees. According to the New York State Department of Social
Services, "costs incurred by a social services district for criminal record background reviews for
new employees are reimbursable as an administrative expenditure."158 According to Monroe,
NYS Office of Children & Family Services, Local Commissioners Memorandum03-OCFS-LCM-12,
Rensselaer, NY, 2003.
156
NYS Department of Corrections, Correction Law 23-A.
157
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
NYS Office of Children & Family Services, Local Commissioners Memorandum 03-OCFS-LCM-12,
Rensselaer, NY, 2003.
66
only slightly more than 50 percent of social services' background checks would actually be
reimbursable to the County, leaving the County to fund the remaining expense.
The County hires approximately 80 new employees each year, 21 percent of which are
typically social services employees.159 Therefore, implementation of this policy could add
another $8,580 to the County's annual personnel budget. Westchester County, the first civil
entity in New York State to use digital fingerprint scanning in their pre-employment process,
requires employees to pay the cost.160 Considerations about who will pay and how much will be
paid will need to be made by the County Administrator before presentation of the proposed
policy is made.
The second programmatic proposal is to provide training in areas such as conflict
resolution and verbal de-escalation techniques to every employee, regardless of worksite or job
title. Although a training program must be implemented in order to be in compliance with
Section 27-b of New York State Labor Law, department heads and employees alike feel that the
County should establish one, not just because there is a mandate, but also because it is necessary.
Although New York State does mandate some initial safety training for certain positions, it does
not mandate continual training or training for all positions. Currently, the only mandated training
is for caseworkers, police officers, correction officers and probation officers. Only police and
correction officers receive training on an ongoing basis. Social workers also receive conflict
resolution training through their degree program, but it is not training that the County provides.
Therefore, only 20-25 percent of the County's workforce has been given any applicable
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
Paula Redd Zeman, e-mail message to Laurie Gosse, September 14, 2009.
67
training.
The County's Probation Director, Police Captain and Buildings and Grounds
Superintendent, in addition to the Commissioner of Social Services, all believe that employee
training in how to handle potentially volatile situations, whether it be with a client or co-worker,
is essential in preventing workplace violence.
These department heads believe that appropriate continuous training that does not fall by
the wayside would prohibit employees from developing a false sense of security, and would be
an adequate starting point for the County to begin an effective program. Police Captain Glenn
Mauzy thinks that "effective communication through training between employees and
recognition by supervisors of developing tension between employees with solutions" is the best
practice to prevent workplace violence incidents.
The proposed training curriculum will assist Cortland County in predicting and
forecasting situations that could lead to violent incidents, and will also outline steps that should
be taken in the aftermath of a workplace violence incident. The County needs to consider many
things in order to create a training program that is appropriate. "There are many ways to teach a
body of knowledge and there are many different ways for people to learn."163 Since Cortland
County employees work in various job titles, at various worksites, on various shifts, with and
without computer access, the County should create a training program with all of these variables
in mind.
In addition, the County may find balancing time constraints and employee support with
the training programs' goals difficult. In general, the more the employee feels connected to the
training topic, the more knowledge he will obtain and retain. Employees need to "buy in" to the
161
162
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
Glenn Mauzy, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, July 10, 2009.
Harriet L. Rubenstein and Nina Wallerstein, Teaching About Job Hazards [Washington, DC: American
Public Health Association, 1993], 37.
68
program. They have to feel that the topic is worthwhile and necessary. According to "The
Financial Impact of Workplace Violence," the biggest obstacle that employers face when
creating a proactive approach to preventing violence is that most executives and supervisors are
in denial and have a "it couldn't happen here" attitude.164
Currently, all Cortland County workers attend a training session upon their first day of
employment and annually thereafter in regards to certain topics, like the blood borne pathogen
and sexual harassment policies. The Safety Officer, through the use of videos and handouts,
performs the existing training program.165 The proposed training curriculum for workplace
violence prevention would be added to the existing training plan. However, the method of
delivery may vary based upon worker and computer access.
What are the essential elements of an effective workplace violence prevention training
program? Several sources, including the New York State Department of Labor, list the following
as topics that should be included:
164
1.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Policy Itself
2.
Definition of Workplace Violence
3.
Common Characteristics of Violent People
4.
Warning Signs of the Potentially Violent Person/Situation
5.
Ways of Preventing or Defusing Aggressive Behavior/Volatile Situations
6.
Anger Management
7.
Security Procedures Including Personal Security Measures
8.
Domestic Violence in the Workplace
"The Financial Impact of Workplace Violence," http://www.workplaceviolence911 .com (accessed
February 1,2009).
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
69
9.
Reporting and Responding to Threats and Incidents
10.
Internal Conflict Resolution Programs/Counseling (Employee Assistance
Program)
What is the best way to communicate these elements to the employees of Cortland
County? Employers use many varying educational methods to deliver training information. The
most effective way is always interactive and provides the trainees the opportunity to ask
questions. Some common tools used for group interactive trainings are fact sheets, group
worksheets and case studies. Fact sheets are often used as handouts for group presentations.
According to Teaching About Job Hazards, factsheets should include "(a) the statement of the
problem or hazard; (b) who is exposed; (c) why the hazard poses a health or safety problem; (d)
what can be done to protect oneself both individually and collectively; and (e) resources for
further information.166 Attachment D illustrates examples of factsheets that may be used as
handouts or in a power point presentation in Cortland County's training program.
Group worksheets are also utilized as a method of getting employees involved in the
training process. These worksheets should pose relevant questions that are designed to reinforce
key points on the topic.167 Attachment E illustrates an example of a worksheet that may be used
on the topic of workplace violence prevention. Case studies present a problem situation and ask
the employee to determine what would be the best avenue to choose in order to solve the
problem. These are used in group settings where presented by a facilitator, or in worksheet form.
Attachment F illustrates an example of a case study situation.
One of the best ways to train employees on any given topic is to hire an expert on the
subject matter to speak and facilitate discussions. Many employers utilize an Employee
166
Harriet L. Rubenstein and Nina Wallerstein, Teaching About Job Hazards [Washington, DC: American
Public Health Association, 1993], 37.
167
Ibid., 51.
70
Assistance Program provider to conduct this training. This is a reasonable solution to the
training problem because counselors employed through these programs routinely deal with the
issues mentioned above, such as stress and anger management. It is unlikely, however, that
Cortland County will choose this method, but will instead utilize an in-house trainer to save on
training costs.
An alternative method of training that Cortland County has begun to utilize with other
topics involves computerized training material. Each employee can log onto his or her computer
as time allows, read through the training material, and then answer questions based to
demonstrate his or her comprehension of the subject matter. This method is not interpersonal, but
is still interactive. If the individual does not answer a certain percentage of the questions
correctly, he or she must try again at a later time. This method allows supervisors to track
employees' "attendance" at the training modules.169
The proposed training program will combine in-person presentations, fact sheets, group
worksheets and case studies to provide the most appropriate method of delivering training
material to Cortland County employees. Some employees, based upon ability to access a
computer, may utilize computer-accessed training materials to satisfy a portion of the
curriculum. NYS Department of Labor guidelines recommend that a training program does not
rely too heavily upon videos or computer-based questions, particularly when discussing such a
personal topic as workplace violence. The guidelines recommend a combination of delivery
methods to ensure that employees have the opportunity to ask questions and become involved in
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, September 3, 2009.
Interview with Staff Development Coordinator, Cortland, NY, January 5, 2009.
71
1 70
the topic. 1 '"All new hires will receive the proposed training. All employees will receive it
annually thereafter.
How can we do the best with what we have? If all recommendations that are suggested
by the Risk Assessment team are not feasible or affordable, the program should focus on what
changes could provide the most protection for the greatest number of employees. A workplace
violence prevention program for Cortland County will include a written policy and also
recommend the following: physical changes to the structure of the County Office Building to
limit access, addition of panic buttons for Horizon House, creation and implementation of a new
prescreening method for prospective County employees, and creation and implementation of an
ongoing training program for all employees, regardless of position or worksite. The total initial
cost associated with these changes would be approximately $37,961. The County would need to
budget approximately $9,580 each year thereafter for fingerprinting and training costs.
The development of a workplace violence prevention program for Cortland County is
influenced by a number of factors. First, surveys revealed that many employees, including
department heads, ignore the potential for workplace violence. Second, the Risk Assessment
Team discovered many physical and structural changes that should be made to increase
employee safety. Third, New York State Labor Law has mandated that every public employer
create and implement a workplace violence prevention program. Fourth, interviews with
department heads revealed that they feel that the co-worker type of violence is on the rise. Fifth,
most employees receive little or no violence prevention training. Finally, program
New York State Department of Labor, http://www.labor.ny.US (accessed February 10, 2009).
72
implementation costs money. The cost for the recommendations listed above is twofold:
approximately $38,000 for structural changes in the County Office Building, installation of panic
buttons at Horizon House, fingerprinting of new hires and training for everyone. The ongoing
cost of criminal background checks and training is approximately $9,500. These are significant
costs, but cannot compare to the priceless loss of life.
73
Chapter Six: Conclusion
What are the perceived benefits for Cortland County if implementation of the proposed
program is approved? How can Cortland County work to maintain an environment of safety for
its employees after implementation of a program? What steps does the County need to take to
implement the proposed program?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of workplace violence homicides
decreased 9 percent from 2005 to 2006. "In fact, since a high of 1,080 was recorded in 1994,
171
homicides have fallen by more than 50 percent."
According to Gary R. VandenBos, PhD, the
number of fatal incidents decreased largely due to employers' prevention efforts.172
Implementation of prevention programs has proven to reduce violence acts nationwide.
Therefore, one may conclude that implementation of such a program for Cortland County would
also reduce the number of incidents experienced there. This is the most obvious benefit that a
prevention program would provide for the County.
The Cortland County policy and program could lead to several additional benefits. In
order to fully examine these additional benefits, one must first understand the sources of risk for
employees while at work. According to the Trades Union Congress, UK, there are four major
sources of harm:
1. Chemical - toxic substances, like allergens and carcinogens
2. Biological - plants and microorganisms.
3. Physical - heat, cold, noise and repetitive motion
171
"Workplace Violence Update: What You Should Know Now," HRFocus (June 2008).
Rebecca A. Clay, "Securing the Workplace: Are Our Fears Misplaced?" Monitor on Psychology, Vol 31,
October 2000.
172
74
4. Psychological - stress, sexual harassment and threats of violence
An effective workplace violence prevention program results in lowering the potential for
violence which, in turn, results in a less stressed workplace. Cortland County will realize many
additional benefits as a result of all six of the proposed components of the program, but
particularly from the following three: implementation of an easily accessible employee
assistance program, improved management-employee communication, and education and
training. These three components work on the intangible aspects of workplace violence: an
individual's mental state and recognizing the warning signs of violence. The benefits provided
by these components in particular will work to prevent violent incidents from occurring, but will
also promote a more harmonious and less stressful workplace than a workplace without these
components.
Employers have the obligation to protect workers from all sources of harm. The
Northwestern Life Insurance Company reported that 25 percent of workers experience
harassment, attacks or threats, all of which are types of psychological harm and types of
workplace violence. Victims are left with feelings of anger, fear, depression and stress.
The
physical and mental health issues that victims endure are directly correlated with the employer's
choice to implement safety precautions to protect its employees or to ignore the safety risks. The
effects of workers and the workplace itself is seen in a study of 500 managers of small and large
"Sources of Harm to People at Work," Trades Union Congress, UK.
Steve Kaufer & Jurg Mattman, "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide,"
http://www.workviolence.com (accessed September 12, 2008).
174
75
companies that reported workplace violence incident in the previous four years. The following is
a reproduction of the results of that study:175
Negative impact on morale
Negative impact on worker
productivity
Negative impact on
production of goods/services
Increased security costs
Increased disability or
workers' compensation claims
Increase in litigation
Among companies that
experienced threat only
43%
39%
Among companies that experienced actual
incident
24%
36%
36%
8%
41%
15%
10%
11%
45%
40%
This chart demonstrates that workplace violence negatively impacts employees by
affecting their morale and productivity. It impacts employers by increasing costs in security,
insurance claims and litigation. Therefore, an effective prevention program can lead to the
inverse: a positive impact on employee morale and productivity and a decrease in employer
costs.
To further examine these additional benefits, one must look at employee stress levels in
relation to the potential for workplace violence. A 2003 Society of Human Resource
Management report showed that 40 percent of workers say that their job is very stressful and 25
percent see their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Forty-eight percent of workers
reported a sense of feeling out of control at work. Additionally, 85 percent of employees feel
1 lf\
overworked and 56 percent are somewhat or completely dissatisfied with their jobs.
Donna Fenn, "Benchmark: The Effects of Workplace Violence," http://www.inc.com (accessed February
20, 2009).
176
Bob Nelson, "Developing a Culture of Engagement & Recognition," http://www.cnvshrm.org (accessed
October 20, 2009).
76
According to David Lee in "Employee Stress: The True Cost," "violence is both a cause and a
1 77
consequence of employee stress."
Lee states that the stress that occurs when personalities
clash at work coupled with some people operating "just below the boiling point," creates a
potential for violence. In these cases, he states that the potential for violence creates significant
stress for employees. "This is especially true where powerlessness and helplessness play a
central role in the person's stress. The more powerless people feel, the more likely they are to
1 78
resort to violence."
Therefore, removing stress from the workplace can lower incidents of workplace
violence. Additionally, removing or lowering levels of stress through an effective prevention
program will lower levels of absenteeism. Lee states that employees with high levels of stress are
two times more likely than other employees to be absent from work more than five times per
year. The number of workers compensation claims and lawsuits filed against an employer also
decreases when employees experience less stress at work. According to the California Workers
Compensation Institute, nine out often claimants who blamed workplace stress for their
disability ended up receiving workers compensation benefits between 1979 and 1988. Stacey
Moran, PhD, reported, "There is a better likelihood of litigation if a company ignores stress1 70
related problems than if it addresses them up-front."
Cortland County stands to gain many positive aspects with the implementation of a
workplace violence prevention program. The main goal of the program is to prevent violence.
However, the secondary benefits of the program cannot be ignored. Employees with lower levels
of stress produce more and are absent from work less frequently than employees with high levels
177 stress. Additionally, less stressed employees are less likely to have health or mental health
of
David Lee, "Employee Stress: The True Cost," The John Liner Review 11(3) (1997): 35.
179
Ibid.
Ibid, 33.
77
problems, thereby reducing the potential for employers' workers compensation and litigation
costs.
How can Cortland County work to maintain a safe environment for its employees once
the program is implemented? The NYS Department of Labor recommends that an employer keep
accurate records and evaluate the program continuously after its adoption. "Record keeping and
evaluation of the violence prevention program are necessary to determine overall effectiveness
and identify deficiencies or changes that should be made."180
Prior to adoption of the amendment to NYS Labor Law 27-b, New York State employers
were required to record and report workplace violence incidents in accordance with NYS Labor
Law 27-a, the Public Employees' Safety and Health Act. Employers should already be reporting
injuries under this law, including those due to workplace violence, if they result in death, days
absent from work, restricted work, medical treatment beyond first aid and loss of consciousness.
In addition, employers are required to report fatalities and hospitalizations as a result of
workplace violence to PESH, the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, within eight hours
of the incident.181
Once the County reports an incident to the appropriate agencies, the County's risk
assessment team should re-evaluate the working conditions surrounding the incident to
determine if further safety precautions need to be implemented. The NYS Department of Labor
recommends that employers establish a consistent reporting system that allows for a regular
review of any reports. The assessment team should also analyze any trends in incidents reported
180
New York State Department of Labor, "Workplace Violence Prevention for Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.state.nv.us/workerprotection (accessed December 10, 2008).
181
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.nv.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH INDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
78
that are a result of workplace violence. These trends will show whether or not the prevention
program is meeting its goals of lowering or preventing incidents from occurring.
In addition, the NYS Department of Labor recommends that employers implement clear
post incident response procedures. According to the NYS Department of Labor, the program's
post incident procedure needs to first ensure the victim's safety and immediate medical care, if
necessary. Secondly, the parties involved need to report the incident to authorities as deemed
appropriate. Next, individuals should complete the employer's incident report. Finally, the
employer should treat any violated employees with ongoing medical and psychological care.
"Post-incident debriefings and counseling can reduce psychological trauma and stress among
victims and witnesses."
According to Steve Kaufer in "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," crisis
response plans are only effective when they are continuously utilized, reviewed and evaluated.
"A plan written, put in a binder and never removed from the shelf until an incident happens is
dangerous because it creates a false sense of protection."
He recommends that employers write
a crisis response plan, test it and continue to test it. This plan could benefit employers in
responding to other types of crisis as well, such as natural disasters.
In order to continue to work towards a workplace free of harm, Cortland County should
constantly access its worksites in relation to the following seven factors that are often used in
determining whether an employer has actively attempted to prevent violent acts:
1.
Does the organization have a clearly defined policy against violence?
182
New York State Department of Labor, "Workplace Violence Prevention for Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.state,ny,us/workerprotection (accessed December 10, 2008).
183
New York State Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health, "Workplace Violence Prevention
Requirements for New York State Public Employers,"
http://www.labor.ny.us/workperprotection/safetvhealth/DOSH_lNDEX.shtm (accessed October 27, 2008).
184
Steve Kaufer, "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," www.workviolence.com (accessed
September 12, 2008).
Ibid.
79
2.
Does the organization have a specific individual(s) who is responsible for the
oversight and implementation of the policy and its provisions?
3.
Has the organization used due care not to give authority to individuals whom the
organization knew, or should have known, had a propensity towards violence?
4.
Has the organization effectively communicated its policy and provisions to all
employees through training and information dissemination?
5.
Has the organization taken reasonable steps to be in compliance with NYS Labor
Law by monitoring its procedures and using an effective reporting system?
6.
Has the organization been consistent in disciplining employees in regards to
workplace violence?
7.
Has the organization taken reasonable steps after an incident occurs to prevent future
similar occurrences?186
If the County can continuously answer "yes" to all of these seven questions, it will show
that it is adhering to the NYS Labor Law provisions and courts will consider its prevention
efforts satisfactory in cases of employer negligence.
According to Catherine E. Smith in Writing Public Policy, public policy has three
components: the problem, the policy and the players.187 New York State has realized a problem:
workplace violence. Cortland County is responding with a proposed policy: Cortland County's
Workplace Violence Prevention Program. The players, Cortland County Legislators, will act to
adopt, amend or block the policy. In order to implement a policy in Cortland County, the County
186
Steve Kaufer, "Corporate Liability: Sharing the Blame for Workplace Violence,"
http://www.workviolence.com (accessed September 30, 2009).
187
Catherine E. Smith, Writing Public Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1-2.
80
Administrator first needs to review and approve it. Once approved by the County Administrator,
the policy is placed upon the appropriate legislative committee's agenda for discussion amongst
committee members. Once approved by the statutory committee, that committee then introduces
it at legislative session. At legislative session, nineteen Cortland County legislators vote to pass,
reject or table the policy.
Since New York State mandated that every public employer institute
a workplace violence prevention program and policy, I expect approval by the legislature.
Legislators are likely to debate the details of how the program is implemented and how the
County will fund its implementation.
In An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts and Models of Public Policy
Making, 2nd edition, Thomas A. Birkland writes, "The study of politics is the attempt to explain
the various ways in which power is exercised in the everyday world and how that power is used
to give resources and benefits to some people and groups, while sometimes imposing costs and
burdens on other people and groups."189 In addition, he states that the study of public policy is an
examination of the government's creation of a set of rules or laws that determine what
government must do to create benefits and burdens.190 These governmental actions affect
everyone's lives. The creation of the amendment to NYS Labor Law 27-b has a significant
effect on public employers and employees in New York State. The law attempts to address the
public's concern about employee safety, but also places a financial burden on New York State's
public employers.
Cortland County Personnel Director Annette Barber stated that the mandate for a
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, November 2, 2009.
Thomas A Birkland, An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts and Model of Public
Policy Making, 2nd ed. (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2005), 4.
189
81
workplace violence prevention program will force the County to deal with an area that has not
been addressed formally in the past. Barber thinks that the Legislature will vote to pass a
workplace violence prevention policy, but may not approve all of the recommendations that go
along with it. The proposed program includes changes to physical building structures and some
procedural changes. All of these proposals cost money. Government at all levels is experiencing
troubling economic times. The County Administrator is currently working on the County's 2010
budget. All department heads are attempting to reduce spending and budget requests. The
County may lay off between eighteen and forty-seven employees. According to Barber, the
County Legislature is not in a position to dedicate funds to a mandate that some may see as
unnecessary at this time. Therefore, it is likely that the Legislature will adopt the policy itself,
but will wait until the County faces an improved financial situation to address the procedural and
structural recommendations.191
On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, Army psychiatrist, allegedly opened
fire on fellow soldiers and civilians at the Fort Hood, Texas military base and killed thirteen
people. The Pentagon is investigating the incident. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that he
would like to see an investigation that goes beyond this incident and the Army, but did not know
how far-reaching the investigation would be. Pentagon officials said, "The inquiry could look at
personnel policies and the availability of mental health services for troubled troops."
Officials stated that there may have been warning signs in this incident and "there will be
a speedy look at whether the military has missed danger signs in other cases." Doctors who
oversaw Hasan's medical training had discussed his avid religious views and stated that Hasan's
191
Annette Barber, interview by Laurie Gosse, Cortland, NY, November 2, 2009.
Anne Gearan & Pauline Jelinek, "Fort Hood Slayings Prompt Full Pentagon Review," Associated Press,
November 17, 2009.
192
82
behavior seemed odd months before the attack. These doctors said that Hasan was an average
student and a lazy worker, but that they did not perceive him to be a violent individual. President
Barack Obama has ordered a review of Hasan's background to determine if all levels of
government communicated information properly and acted upon this information
appropriately.193
In conclusion, the many incidents of workplace violence cited here within demonstrate
that workplace violence can come in many forms. It can come at any time and it can come from
anyone. Many employers seem to believe in two myths: (1) "it can't happen here" and (2) "it
can't be prevented." According to speakers at the Second Annual Conference on Workplace
Violence sponsored by the Occupation Health and Safety Administration and Western New
England College, minimization is employers' default response. When asked about the possibility
of violence in the workplace, most employers want to pretend it is not there. They do not want
confrontation and would rather ignore its potential than address it head on.
Workplace violence can happen anywhere. The Fort Hood incident proves this.
Workplace violence can be prevented. Statistics have shown that an effective prevention
program will reduce the number of incidents that occur. "No company can completely prevent or
eliminate workplace violence, but with proper planning and effective programs, the chances of
such violent occurrences can be dramatically reduced."
The essential elements of the Cortland County workplace violence prevention program
include a comprehensive policy and changes to building structures, as well as procedural
193
Anne Gearan & Pauline Jelinek, "Fort Hood Slayings Prompt Full Pentagon Review," Associated Press,
November 17, 2009.
194
Steve Kaufer, "Workplace Violence: An Employer's Guide," www.workviolence.com (accessed
September 12, 2008).
83
changes. I believe that, once the program is implemented and monitored continuously, Cortland
County and its employees will reap the benefits of a safer, more responsive workplace.
84
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WORKSITE
NUMBER OF
COUNTY
EMPLOYEES
JOB TYPE OF
EMPLOYEES AT
THIS SITE
County Office
Building
357
Social Services
Workers
Attorneys
Food Service
Clerical Staff
County Administration
Buildings and Grounds
Staff
Nurses
Courthouse
49
Public Safety
Building
78
Jail
Mental Health
Clinic
Cortland Career
Works
Highway Garage
40
35
Landfill
5
Recycling Center
4
Airport
Horizon House
1
6
Hospice
8
Scott Senior
Center
Truxton Senior
Center
McGraw Senior
Center
2
Probation Staff
Attorneys
Motor Vehicle Clerks
County Clerk Staff
Police Officers
Dispatchers
Clerical Staff
Correction Officers
Social Workers
Clerical Staff
Employment Specialists
Clerical Staff
Highway Workers
Clerical Staff
Landfill Workers
Clerical Staff
Recycling Workers
Clerical Staff
Airport Worker
Social Workers
Clerical Staff
Nurses
Clerical Staff
Center Manager
Food Service
Center Manager
Food Service
Center Manager
Food Service
5
65
2
2
APPROX
NUMBER
OF
VISITORS
DAILY (does
not include
employees)
240 (DSS)
77 (Aging)
Total of at
least 400
visitors
depending
upon day
PROPERTY
OWNED BY
COUNTY?
Yes
564
Yes
25-30, could
be up to 100
Yes
50-60
75
Yes
No
160
No
20
Yes
80
Yes
150
Yes
50
40
No
Yes
3, could be
up to 15
28
No
19
No
29
No
No
93
Homer Senior
Center
Cincinnatus/Willet
Senior Center
Marathon Senior
Center
Harford Sr. Center
2
2
2
2
Dwyer Park
2 (seasonal)
Planning Office
5
Center Manager
Food Service
Center Manager
Food Service
Center Manager
Food Service
Center Manager
Food Service
Highway Workers
Planning Staff
Clerical Staff
42
No
38
No
31
No
20
No
200
(seasonal)
10, could be
up to 100
Yes
No
Figure 1. Cortland County worksites.
94
CORTLAND COUNTY
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE RISK EVALUATION AND DETERMINATION
WORKSHEET
Date:
Department:
Department Head/designee:
Worksite Location:
This Workplace Violence Risk Evaluation and Determination Worksheet is to determine
the presence of hazards, conditions, operations and situation which might place workers at
risk of occupational assault incidents. Please complete all of the following questions.
Do employees work late at night?
Yes Q No Q
Early morning hours?
Yes Q No I I
When the building is closed?
Yes I I No I I
Exchange money with public (cash, money orders, and checks)?
Yes D No D
Normally work alone or in small numbers (under five people)? Includes field visits?
Yes D No D
Position Title:
Is there uncontrolled access to your building/your office when building is opened?
Yes D No Q
When building is closed?
Yes D No D
Have there been previous security problems? Yes Q N o G
Employees working in high crime areas?
For employees that work off site, do they:
Check in periodically
Supplied with personal alarm
Cellular phone
Radio.
Review of client case histories prior to visit.
Engineering Controls:
Any security measures in place such as:
Security Alarms
Yes I I No | |
Panic Buttons
Yes Q No Q
Locked Restroom Doors
Yes I I No 1 |
Closed Circuit Television Yes Q No Q
Metal Detectors
Yes • No •
Door Controls
Yes • No •
If yes, please explain.
Yes O No Q
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
I I No I I
I I No I I
• No •
• No •
Q No Q
If yes location:
95
Door Detectors
Yes I I No I I
Sound Detection
Yes O No O
Monitors
Yes • No O
Video Tape Recorder
Yes I I No I I
Hand Held Metal Detector Yes • No •
Are these systems tested
Yes I I No I I
Adequate lighting systems for indoor building areas?
Outside of the facility?
Parking areas?
Yes D No D
Yes Q No D
Yes D No D
Does landscaping provide unobstructed view of workplace?
Yes \Z\ No O
Security or Law Enforcement Officers on site. Yes[ ] No[ ]
If yes, are they stationary, mobile, or a combination of both
Are visitors/clients required to sign in?
Yes D No D
Are there designated interview areas?
Yes D No D
Are visitors/clients escorted?
Yes D No D
Who issues door keys? (position title)
Is there a record of who has keys?
Yes D No D
Are identification cards issued?
Yes D No D
Are employees required to wear ID badges?
Yes D No D
Are there unobstructed office exits?
Yes Q No D
Is there a reception area available?
Yes D No D
Is there a countertop to separate clients from work area?
Yes D No D
How many exits/entrances are there in the building?
How many exits/entrances are used by clients/visitors?
Are there separate interview areas?
Yes D No D
Are emergency phone numbers posted?
Yes D No D
From this analysis, the following issues have been identified:
In order to reduce the risk of workplace violence in the workplace, the Risk Assessment
recommends the following measures:
Attachment A. Risk evaluation worksheet
EMPLOYEE SURVEY
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE HAZARD ASSESSMENT
NAME (Optional):
JOB TITLE:
DEPARTMENT:
DATE:
Please assess your department over the last year. Check True (T), False (F), or Don't Know (?). Thank you for you honest assessment.
Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
1. Violence/threats are not accepted as "part of the job" by managers, supervisors and/or
employees.
2. Employees communicate information about potentially assaultive/threatening clients or visitors to appropriate staff.
3. Management communicates information to employees about incidents of workplace violence.
4. Employees feel they are treated with respect by other employees.
5. Employees feel they are treated with respect by management.
6. Employees are basically satisfied with the organization (mission, goals, etc.)
7. Employees generally feel "safe" while at work.
8. Employees are familiar with the department's violence prevention policy.
If true, identify policy in place within your department.
Potential Risk Factors
9. Employees do not work in high crime areas.
T
F
10. Employees do not work with drugs.
T
F
11. Employees do not work with cash.
T
F
12. Employees do not work with patients or clients who have a history of violent behavior or behavior
T
F
disorders.
13. Employees do not work in isolated work areas.
T
F
Hazard Prevention and Control
T
F
14. The department has adequate lighting to, from and within the worksite.
15. The employee parking area is well lighted when arriving, leaving and during shift changes.
T
F
16. Access and freedom of movement within the workplace are restricted to those persons who have a
T
F
legitimate reason for being there.
T
F
17. Alarm systems such as panic buttons, silent alarms or personal electronic alarm systems are being used
for prompt security assistance.
18. Employees know how to use security escort service after hours.
T
F
T
F
19. After hours, the building is locked down with only one access point.
20. Visitors are signed in and out.
T
F
T
F
21. Exits are accessible and clearly marked.
T
F
22. Employees are able to locate emergency equipment such as fire alarm boxes or emergency generator
outlets.
23. Emergency equipment is accessible and free from obstruction.
T
F
T
F
24. Employees are able to locate cellular phones, power-failure phone and/or radios for emergency
communication.
T
F
25. Employees know of the proper procedure if a bomb threat is announced.
T
F
26. Employee emergency call-back list is up-to-date and available.
T
F
27. Employees provide privacy to reflect sensitivity and respect for clients and visitors.
T
F
28. Employees use the "buddy system" to work together if problems arise.
T
F
29. Employees working in the field have cellular phones or other communication devices to enable them
to request aid.
T
F
30. Reference manuals are up-to-date and available to employees.
Training
31. Employees know how to ask for assistance by phone or alerting other staff.
T
F
32. Employees have been trained to recognize and handle threatening, aggressive, or violent behavior.
T
F
33. Employees have been trained in verbal de-escalation techniques.
T
F
T
F
34. Employees have been trained in self-defense/restraint procedures.
Incidents and Reporting
T
F
35. This department has not experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from strangers.
36. This department has not experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from clients or customers. T
F
37. This department has not experienced violent behavior and assaults or threats from others employed in
T
F
the organization.
38. This department has not experienced domestic violence issues.
T
F
39. Employees are required to report incidents or threats of violence, regardless of injury or severity. The
T
F
reporting system is clear.
T
T
T
T
T
T
T
T
F
F
F
F
F
F
F
F
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
?
97
40. Medical and psychological counseling services were offered to employees who have been assaulted or
threatened.
Additional Comments
Please feel free to add any comments you feel relevant to this topic in the area below. List examples of potential risks within your department and
recommend any changes to County facilities/policies that you think would be appropriate. Thank you again for your participation.
Table 1. Employee survey.
98
%
1
5
9 13 17 21 25 29 33 37
Question
• True • False • ? •
Figure 2. Employee responses to employee survey in table 1.
99
CORTLAND COUNTY
WORK PLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION POLICY/PROGRAM
Policy Statement: Cortland County is committed to promoting a safe and secure work
environment for all its employees. All County employees are expected to maintain a
work environment free from violence, threats of harassment, intimidation or coercion.
The purpose of this policy is to address the issue of potential workplace violence, prevent
workplace violence from occurring to the fullest extent possible, and set forth procedures
to be followed when such violence has occurred.
Workplace violence is defined by the New York State Department of Labor as any
physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring where the public
employee performs any work-related duty in the course of his or her employment.
Such actions include:
• Causing physical injury to another person.
• Making threatening remarks.
• Aggressive or hostile behavior that creates a reasonable fear of injury to
another person or subjects another individual to emotional distress.
• Intentionally damaging employer property or property of another
employee.
• Committing acts motivated by, or related to, sexual harassment or
domestic violence.
Therefore, except as may be required as a condition of employment:
• No employee shall bring into any work site any weapon or other
dangerous instrument that might reasonably be used as a weapon.
• No employee shall use, attempt to use, or threaten to use any weapon or
dangerous instrument in a work site.
• No employee shall cause or threaten to cause physical injury to any
individual, or intentionally cause damage to property in a work site.
• No employee shall make threatening or bullying remarks towards another
person.
Types of Workplace Violence
1. Criminal intent - these violent acts are committed for the purpose of committing a
crime, like a burglary.
2. Customer or client - violence directed at employees by customers or clients
3. Personal - violence committed by an individual who does not work at the business,
but has a personal relationship with an employee.
4. Co-worker - violence committed against employees by current or former employees
Scope of Policy
All County employees, vendors, contractors, consultants, and others who do business
with the County, whether in a County facility or where official County business is
conducted, are covered by this policy. This policy also applies to other persons not
100
affiliated with the County, such as former employees and visitors. When employees have
complaints about other employees, they should contact their immediate supervisor. If the
complaint involves their immediate supervisor, they should contact their department
head.
Cortland County prohibits workplace violence. Complaints involving workplace violence
will be given the serious attention they deserve. Individuals who violate this policy may
be removed from County property and employees may be subject to disciplinary action
up to and including termination, consistent with County policies, rules and collective
bargaining agreements, and/or referral to law enforcement authorities for criminal
prosecution. The County, at the request of an employee, or at its own discretion, may
prohibit members of the public, including family members, from seeing an employee on
County property unless necessary to transact County-related business. This policy
particularly applies in cases where the employee suspects that an act of violence will
result from an encounter with said individual(s).
Reporting of Incidents
It is the responsibility of all employees to report all threatening behavior to their
supervisor or department head immediately. Incidents of workplace violence, threats of
workplace violence, or observations of workplace violence are not to be ignored by any
County employee. Workplace violence should promptly be reported using the threat
summary form at the end of this policy. Additionally, County employees are encouraged
to report behavior that they reasonably believe poses a potential for workplace violence.
Any person experiencing or witnessing imminent danger or actual violence involving
weapons or personal injury should call 911 immediately. All individuals who believe a
crime has been committed against them have the right, and are encouraged, to report the
incident to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Employees who make false and
malicious complaints of workplace violence, as opposed to complaints which, even if
erroneous, are made in good faith, will be subject to disciplinary action and/or referral to
law enforcement authorities as appropriate.
Administrative Procedures for Incident Reporting
1.
The supervisor or department head to whom the employee reports the threat will
review the threat with that employee and with any other appropriate staff.
2.
The supervisor or department head will notify all appropriate personnel, including
law enforcement, if necessary.
3.
The supervisor or department head will complete the Incident Report and forward
it to a member of the Workplace Violence Advisory Team.
Only the Department Head (or in his/her absence, the Acting/Deputy Department Head),
shall initiate legal action on behalf of the County beyond notification of and coordination
with law enforcement officials, with the approval of the County Administrator.
Timeliness of Reporting
It is the policy of Cortland County to investigate reports of workplace violence in a
101
reasonable time period. Because there are limits to Cortland County's ability to provide
effective safeguards, primary responsibility for protecting against harm must remain with
the threatened employee through the exercise of vigilance, common sense and his/her
rights to police protection as a citizen. Nothing in this procedure limits the threatened
employee from exercising his/her legal rights to make additional arrangements for
protections which do not impede his/her ability to perform his/her work duties.
Confidentiality
The County shall maintain the confidentiality of investigations of workplace violence to
the fullest extent possible. The County will act on the basis of anonymous complaints
where it has a reasonable basis to believe that there has been a violation of this policy and
that the safety and well being of County employees would be served by such action
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The County shall maintain an employee assistance program for all employees to utilize
for counseling purposes. Victims of workplace violence will be offered and encouraged
to use this program and may access it by contacting the Personnel Officer.
Retaliation
Retaliation against anyone acting in good faith who has made a complaint of workplace
violence, who has reported witnessing workplace violence, or who has been involved in
reporting, investigating, or responding to workplace violence is a violation of this policy.
Those found responsible for retaliatory action may be subject to discipline up to and
including termination.
Education
The County is responsible for the dissemination and enforcement of this policy as
described herein, as well as for providing opportunities for training in the prevention and
awareness of workplace violence. The County Safety Officer, department heads and
supervisors are responsible to assist in identifying available training opportunities, as well
as other resources and tools, (such as reference materials detailing workplace violence
warning signs) that can be incorporated into County prevention materials for
dissemination to County Employees.
All County employees will receive workplace violence training during their new
employee orientation and annually thereafter. It is the responsibility of the Safety Officer
and department heads to ensure that all employees receive this training.
Identification
To the extent possible, all County employees shall wear County issued photo
identification badges. Department heads will be responsible for ensuring their use.
Bomb Threat Protocol
In the event that an employee receives notice, by telephone or otherwise, of a bomb
threat, the employee shall immediately call 911, then notify his/her immediate supervisor.
102
Responsibilities
The County shall establish a Risk Assessment Team and a Workplace Violence Advisory
Team. The Risk Assessment Team will be comprised of the Safety Officer, Deputy
Personnel Officer and designated union representatives. This team will be responsible for
evaluating all worksites and continually monitoring them for potential workplace
violence hazards.
The Workplace Violence Advisory Team will be comprised of the Personnel Officer, one
designated department head and designated union representatives. The Workplace
Violence Advisory Team will make changes to the policy/program as appropriate and be
responsible for investigating reports of workplace violence incidents.
103
Workplace Violence Incident Report
Name of Employee Completing Report:
Job Title:
Department:
Today's Date:
Date of Incident:
Time of Incident:
Name of victim:
Name of alleged perpetrator:
Address/location where incident took place:
How was the threat made:
In person
On County property
At home
Telephone
Written
Other
Describe the incident (attach police report if appropriate)
Has this happened before? (If so, give details)
Is there a catalyst?
What was the immediate action taken?
History of the person making the threat?
Is the County about to take an action which may exacerbate the situation?
Police Notified:
Department
Date
Name of Officer
Time
Who was notified?
Other actions taken:
Attachment B. Proposed Cortland County Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program.
GUIDELINES FOR THE DETERMINATION OF APPROVAL/DISAPPROVAL CIVIL
SERVICE APPLICANTS WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD
This guide has been established to assist a municipality in approving or disapproving a person's
application based upon available information. Determinations must be in accordance with Article
23-A of Correction Law, which governs licensure and employment of persons previously
convicted of criminal offenses.
Article 23-A provides that an application can be disapproved if (1) there is a direct relationship
between the crime committed and the position being applied for, and (2) approving the license or
employment would create an unreasonable risk to the property or safety of individuals and/or the
public.
The following must be considered when reviewing applications of individuals with criminal
convictions:
1.
The policy of the state is to encourage employment of persons convicted of crimes.
See Corrections Law Article 23-A
2.
Is the individual's suitability for employment in the position lessened by the criminal
offense?
Examine the degree to which the position would be required to perform job duties
related to the conviction.
3.
How much time has passed since the crime was committed?
The older the conviction, the less weight it should be given.
4.
How old was the individual at the time the crime was committed?
Individuals who were fairly young at the time the crime was committed should be
evaluated differently than those who were adults.
5.
How serious was the offense?
A felony is the most serious type of crime, followed by misdemeanor, then violation.
Crimes involving violence should weigh heavier than non-violent crimes. Conviction
of more than one crime should be considered.
Attachment C. Criminal background check guidelines.
106
WHAT IS WORKPLACE VIOLENCE?
ANY PHYSICAL ASSAULT, THREATENING BEHAVIOR, OR
VERBAL ABUSE OCCURRING IN THE WORK SETTING.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WORKPLACE
VIOLENCE?
PHYSICAL ACTS:
HITTING, PUSHING, SHOOTINGS OR OTHER AGGRESSIVE
ACTS AGAINST ANOTHER PERSON
VERBAL THREATS:
HARASSMENT, BULLYING, INTIMIDATION, BEING SWORN OR
SHOUTED AT
107
TYPES OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
1.
Criminal intent - these violent acts are committed for the purpose of
committing a crime, like a burglary.
2.
Customer or client - violence directed at employees by customers or
clients.
3
Personal - violence committed by an individual who does not work at
the business, but has a personal relationship with an employee.
4. Co-worker - violence committed against employees by current or former
employees.
RISK FACTORS
Contact with the Public
Working Alone
Uncontrolled Access to the Worksite
Working Late Night or Early Morning
Handling Cash
Working with Unstable Individuals
108
WHAT IS CORTLAND COUNTY'S POLICY ON
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE?
ZERO TOLERANCE.
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. ANY ACT OF
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE SHOULD BE REPORTED IMMEDIATELY.
APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE ENACTED.
HOW DO I REPORT AN INCIDENT OF WORKPLACE
VIOLENCE?
COMPLETE THE "REPORT OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE INCIDENT"
(AVAILABLE ON THE COUNTY WEBSITE) AND SUBMIT IT TO A
MEMBER OF THE WORKPLACE VIOLENCE ADVISORY TEAM.
INCIDENTS SHOULD BE REPORTED WITHIN 24 HOURS.
RETALIATION AGAINST REPORTERS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
109
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AND OTHERS FROM THREATS OF
VIOLENCE?
1.
BE AWARE OF WARNING SIGNS
Individual appears agitated, angered
Individual is yelling, cursing
Individual seems despondent, uncharacteristic behavior
2.
REPORT ALL THREATS IMMEDIATELY
To Supervisor
To Human Resources
3.
KNOW HOW TO CONTACT SECURITY OR LAW ENFORCEMENT
Emergency numbers should be posted
Alternate security system (i.e. panic buttons, etc.)
4.
DO NOT RESPOND NEGATIVELY TO AGGRESSION
Speak calmly
Listen to the individual
Do not move towards the individual
Be compassionate
110
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
New York State Labor Department's Safety and Health
Website: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/safetvhealtli/DOSH INDEX.shtm
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Website: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/iniury/traumaviolence.html
The United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health
Administration
Website: www.osha.gov
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Website: http://www.fbi.gov/publications/violence.pdf
Attachment D. Training factsheets.
Ill
Group Worksheet
1. Which of the following is not considered an example of violence if it occurs in the
workplace?
a. stalking
b. being sworn at
c. getting suspended for breaching confidentiality
d. sexual harassment
2. Which
a.
b.
c.
d.
of the following is not considered a risk factor for workplace violence?
working alone
working with mentally unstable individuals
working with cash
working in groups
3. How many people in the U.S. are victims of fatal workplace violence each year?
a. less than 100
b. between 100 and 500
c. between 500 and 1000
d. more than 1000
4. How many people in the U.S. are victims of non-fatal workplace violence each year?
a. less than 1,000
b. between 1,000 and 5,000
c. between 50,000 and 100,000
d. more than 1 million
5. What is the best way for employers to protect their employees against workplace
violence?
a. training
b. management-employee communication
c. hazard control practices
d. all of the above
Attachment E. Training worksheet.
112
Case Study
Carrie is a caseworker working in the Child Protection Services Division of the
Department of Social Services. Her job is to ensure the safety of children who families have
been identified as providing potentially unsafe living conditions.
Carrie has been working with the Smith family, which is comprised of an alcoholic
father, a mentally unstable mother and two toddlers. The toddlers have both been identified as
having developmental problems and need a great deal of individual attention. The parents have
never been disrespectful to Carrie and realize that her role is to help them be able to keep their
children.
One day Carrie makes a home visit to the Smiths and finds that the mother is not home
and that the father is home with the children, but is intoxicated. He begins to speak loudly to her
and even pushes her at one point. Carrie is caught off guard and becomes very nervous. The
children are in the room and begin to cry. Carrie tries to console them and finds herself again
pushed to the floor.
1.
How can Carrie get out of this situation safely?
2.
What things did Carrie do right? Wrong?
3.
Describe how Carrie should handle this situation?
4.
How could this situation been prevented?
5.
What things could Carrie's employer do to help her to be prepared for
this type of situation?
Attachment F. Training case study.
113
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