It’s a violent world out there—one that can spill over into the workplace. That’s why it’s important to stop contentious behavior from escalating to violence in the first place.
A zero-tolerance policy may be your best bet—if you are willing to follow through with appropriate discipline, including discharge.
First, publicize the policy so everyone understands the expectations. When an incident occurs that you believe violates the rules, get the facts, make the call and show the organization is serious about a violence-free workplace.
Recent case: Corazon Zambrano, who is over age 40 and of Filipino origin, worked as a temporary employee for the U.S. Postal Service. The post office had in place a policy of zero tolerance for violence or threats of violence, and all new employees knew the policy.
Zambrano and a co-worker got into an argument and Zambrano announced that she couldn’t hit the co-worker because of the zero-tolerance policy, but said she would settle the matter later outside. When confronted about the incident, Zambrano admitted everything and was discharged. Then she sued, alleging age and race discrimination.
The court tossed out her case because the post office showed it had a legitimate reason for the discharge. (Zambrano v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 06-02565, ND CA, 2007)