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Course 720 - Preventing Workplace Violence

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Stalking

The Incident

A supervisor called the Employee Relations office to request a meeting of the workplace violence team for assistance in handling a situation he's just learned about. He was counseling one of his employees about her frequent unscheduled absences, when she told him a chilling story of what she's been going through for the past year. She broke up with her boyfriend a year ago and he's been stalking her ever since. He calls her several times a week (she hangs up immediately). He shows up wherever she goes on the weekends and just stares at her from a distance. He often parks his car down the block from her home and just sits there. He's made it known he has a gun.

Response

This agency's plan calls for the initial involvement of security, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and employee relations in cases involving stalking. The security officer, the EAP counselor, and employee relations specialist met first with the supervisor and then with the employee and supervisor together. At the meeting with the employee, after learning as much of the background as possible, they gave her some initial suggestions.

  • Contact her local police and file a report. Ask them to assess her security at home and make recommendations for improvements.

  • Log all future Contacts with the stalker and clearly record the date, time, and nature of the Contact.

  • Let voice mail screen incoming phone calls.

  • Contact her own phone company to report the situation.

  • Give permission to let her coworkers know what was going on (she would not agree to do this).

  • Vary her routines, e.g., go to different shops, take different routes, run errands at different times, report to work on a variable schedule.

The team then worked out the following plan:

  1. The Employee Relations specialist acted as coordinator of the response effort. He made a written report of the situation and kept it updated. He kept the team members, the supervisor, and the employee apprised of what the others were doing to resolve the situation. He also looked into the feasibility of relocating the employee to another worksite.

  2. The Security officer immediately reported the situation to the local police. With the employee's consent, she also called the police where the employee lived to learn what steps they could take to help the employee. She offered to coordinate and exchange information with them. The security officer arranged for increased surveillance of the building and circulated photos of the stalker to all building guards with instructions to detain him if he showed up at the building. She brought a tape recorder to the employee's desk and showed her the best way to tape any future voice mail messages from the stalker. She also Contacted the agency's phone company to arrange for its involvement in the case.

  3. The Employee Assistance Program counselor provided support and counseling for both the employee and the supervisor throughout the time this was going on. He suggested local organizations that could help the employee. He also tried to convince her to tell coworkers about the situation.

  4. The Union arranged to sponsor a session on stalking in order to raise the consciousness of agency employees about the problem in general.

After a week, when the employee finally agreed to tell coworkers what was going on, the EAP counselor and security officer jointly held a meeting with the whole work group to discuss any fears or concerns they had and give advice on how they could help with the situation.

Resolution

In this case, the employee's coworkers were supportive and wanted to help out. They volunteered to watch out for the stalker and to follow other security measures recommended by the security specialist. The stalker ended up in jail because he tried to break into the employee's home while armed with a gun. The security officer believes that the local police were able to be more responsive in this situation because they had been working together with agency security on the case.

Questions for the Agency Planning Group

  1. Do you agree with the agency's approach in this case?

  2. What would you do in a similar situation if your agency doesn't have security guards?

  3. What would you do if coworkers were too afraid of the stalker to work in the same office with the employee?

  4. What would you do if/when the stalker gets out of jail on bail or out on probation?

  5. Would your Office of Inspector General have gotten involved in this case, e. g., coordinated agency efforts with local law enforcement agencies?