Immediately after the violent act
Immediately after an assault occurs, an employer should focus first on providing for the medical and psychological needs of all affected employees. Other immediate steps include:
Initiate the Post Incident Trauma Plan
The post trauma plan should focus activities first on meeting the immediate medical and psychological needs of employees as necessary. Employees may also need the services of an employee assistance program or other counseling services.
Provisions for follow-up after medical and psychological treatment, medical confidentiality, and protection from discrimination must be addressed in the plan to prevent the victims of workplace violence from suffering further loss. The plan should also address ways to reduce financial losses to the company caused by absence, lost productivity, and workers’ compensation claims.
Immediate debriefings. All affected employees should be included in a debriefing so that the cause of the violence and expectations can be discussed, a plan of action can be addressed, and those needing further counseling can be identified.
Employee Assistance Program services (EAP)
Though most employees will need only brief intervention, provision should be made for the few who may need longer-term professional assistance. Strategies for identifying these employees and guiding them as smoothly as possible from emergency-centered interventions to more extensive mental health care should be included in the planning.
The EAP may approach these responsibilities in different ways, depending on the size and experience of its staff. In some cases, internal EAP resources may be sufficient, but in others, additional staffing will be necessary. EAP staff who do not have expertise in traumatic incident counseling may wish to develop in-house expertise or keep close at hand the phone numbers of resources to Contact should an incident occur. Potential sources of additional help, for example, private contractors, community mental health resources, university or medical school programs, might be explored.
Since management bears the brunt of responsibility after a violent incident, and can find itself dealing with unfamiliar challenges under high stress, the EAP can be very helpful in facilitating an optimal response. It can provide managers with information on traumatic events and can assist them in analyzing the situation and developing strategies for the organization's recovery. An effective EAP needs to be familiar not only with post-disaster mental health care, but also with management practices that facilitate recovery and with other resources which may need to be mobilized.
Support Prosecution of Offenders
To prevent further incidents from occurring and to show their support of the victims, employers should support prosecution of offenders. Accommodate employees after a violent incident in order for them to make court appearances and work with the prosecution. Cooperate with law enforcement authorities to help identify and prosecute offenders through the use of any and all means at your disposal, such as “Crime Stoppers,” rewards, etc.
Administrative Actions to Keep an Employee Away from the Worksite
In situations where a disruption has occurred on the job, or where there is a belief that the potential for violence exists, a supervisor may need to keep an employee away from the worksite to ensure the safety of employees while conducting further investigation and deciding on a course of action.
Immediate, short-term actions
Supervisors are sometimes faced with a situation where there is insufficient information available to determine if an employee poses a safety risk, has actually committed a crime, or has a medical condition which might make disciplinary action inappropriate.
Where the supervisor possesses the relevant information regarding violent, harassing, threatening, and other disruptive behavior, the supervisor should determine the appropriate disciplinary action. The selection of an appropriate charge and related corrective action should be discussed with human resources and legal staff where appropriate. Some disciplinary actions are:
Disabilities as a Defense Against Alleged Misconduct
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued important guidance that specifically addresses potentially violent misconduct by employees with disabilities. Although this guidance deals specifically with psychiatric disabilities, it applies generally to other disabling medical conditions. It advises that an organization may discipline an employee with a disability who has violated a rule (written or unwritten) that is job-related and consistent with business necessity, even if the misconduct is the result of the disability, as long as the company would impose the same discipline on an employee without a disability. The guidance specifically states that nothing in the Rehabilitation Act prevents an employer from maintaining a workplace free of violence or threats of violence.
For a detailed discussion of all these points, see EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities, EEOC number 915.002, 3-25-97. The guidance is available on the Internet at //www.eeoc.gov, or a copy can be obtained by calling the EEOC Publications department at (800)669-3362.
Actions to inform all employees and the public
It is important to conduct a group debriefing after a serious incident of violence for immediate co-workers in how to communicate with the victim/co-worker who is re-entering the job after absence. To alleviate anxiety and reduce misinformation, keep the lines of communication open between labor and management. Assign a person or persons to be responsible for dealing with the media, if necessary.
Source: OPM Office of Personnel Management
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