Sample Policy: Violence and Weapons
The following sample policy was excerpted from The Book of Company Policies, published by HR Specialist, © 2007. Edit for your organization’s purposes.
Purpose: “All employees have the right to work in an environment free from physical violence, threats and intimidation. The Company’s position is that violence is a form of serious misconduct that undermines the integrity of the employment relationship. No employee should be subject to unsolicited and physical violence, threats or intimidation. Such behavior may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
Policy: “The Company has a strong commitment to its employees to provide a safe, healthy and secure work environment. The Company also expects its employees to maintain a high level of productivity and efficiency. The presence of weapons and the occurrence of violence in the workplace during working hours or otherwise are inconsistent with these objectives. While the Company has no intention of intruding into the private lives of its present or potential employees, it expects all employees to report on the work site without possessing weapons and to perform their job without violence toward any other individual.
Coverage: “All applicants considered for employment will be required to sign an acknowledgment that they have received this Policy and understand its contents and intent . . . Any applicant or employee who refuses to sign the acknowledgment will be subject to termination, up to and including discharge.
“Crime of Violence or Violence: Includes any degree of murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated rape, rape, mayhem, especially aggravated robbery, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, assault, physical or verbal threats and battery.
“Weapon: Includes an explosive or an explosive weapon, a device principally designed, made or adapted for delivering or shooting an explosive weapon, a machine gun, a short-barrel rifle or shotgun, a handgun, a firearm silencer, a switchblade knife or any other type of knife, or knuckles, or any other implement for infliction of bodily injury, serious bodily injury or death that has no common lawful purpose.
“On the Work Site: Includes all property owned or occupied by the Company (including Company job sites) or in a Company vehicle.
“Possession: Includes, but is not limited to, the presence of a weapon on the employee, in his/her motor vehicle, lunch box, locker, tool kit, bag, purse, cabinets, office, etc.
- Use, possession, or sale of any weapon as described above.
- Storing any weapon in a locker, desk, vehicles, lunch box, tool kit, bag, purse or other repository on the work site or other Company premises.
- Illegal possession, use or sale of a weapon off Company property that adversely affects his/her own or other’s safety at work, or indicates a propensity for same.
- Refusing to submit to an inspection for the presence of a weapon that is requested by the Company.
- Conviction under any criminal statute for the illegal possession of a weapon or for committing a violent act against the person or property of another.
- Refusing to sign a statement to comply with the Company’s Policy on Workplace Violence.
- Refusing to participate in an investigation pertaining to allegations or suspicion that violence has or is likely to occur, or an investigation pertaining to the carrying of a weapon by the employee or a co-employee.
- Verbal or physical threats, threatening gestures or statements.
“The Company, in its discretion, may from time to time modify this policy. In the event the Workplace Violence Policy is revised, a copy of the revised policy will be provided to each employee, and to the extent that the employee acknowledgment of the Policy may need to be updated or revised, each employee will be required to sign an updated version.
“An employee who violates this Policy by bringing onto the work site a weapon and whose employment is not terminated by the Company will be subject to searches from time to time, for an indefinite period of time not to exceed one (1) year from the date of the violation.
“An employee’s consent to submit to a search is required as a condition of employment and the employee’s refusal to consent may result in disciplinary action, including discharge, for a first refusal or any subsequent refusal.
“If an employee is injured while participating in a fight or after instigating a fight, then entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits may be denied.
“No part of this Policy, nor any procedure therein, is intended to affect the Company’s right to manage or control its workforce, or be construed as a guarantee or contract of employment or continued employment.
Nonretaliation: “This policy also prohibits retaliation against employees who report incidents of threats, physical violence, intimidating conduct or weapons possession. Any employee bringing a harassment complaint or assisting in the investigation of such a complaint will not be adversely affected in terms and conditions of employment, nor discriminated against or discharged because of the complaint.
Modification and Revision: “This policy is subject to modification or revision in part or in its entirety to reflect changes in conditions subsequent to the effective date of this policy.”
What’s at Issue
Often it is an employee or ex-employee who turns violent. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 57 percent of all workplace violence is directed against fellow employees by a co-worker, and 17 percent is an employee against a supervisor. Six percent of the attackers are customers; 4 percent are boyfriends or girlfriends of employees; 3 percent are spouses of employees. In many cases, at least some co-workers knew that the person might turn violent.
Still, you can’t predict the behavior of your employees, clients and all their friends and relatives. You can’t anticipate or plan for every possible danger. But the law dictates that you, as the employer, have a “duty of care” to keep all individuals in your workplace safe from dangers you can reasonably anticipate, both from inside and outside forces. To do that, you need to evaluate potential dangers and formulate an appropriate action plan.
Weapons in the workplace present an obvious potential for violence. Aside from allowing designated, trained security personnel to carry them, you should explicitly ban weapons from the premises. Even in the case of security staff, carefully weigh the risks posed by the mere presence of their weapons against the potential for them to protect others from harm. Some organizations even list categories of prohibited weapons, so there’s no room for doubt.
To reduce the chance of workplace violence—or your liability if it does happen—establish a program that covers the following:
- Ban weapons, and have a zero-tolerance policy regarding threats in the workplace.
- Screen carefully by checking references and doing criminal background checks.
- Train supervisors to recognize personality changes and warning signs.
- Defuse disputes. Establish a mediation program to resolve employee disputes rather than letting them simmer.
- Evaluate your security system at least once a year. Consider whether you might need silent alarms, ID keys, cameras or even an armed guard.
- Make it a policy that any restraining orders involving employees must be reported to management, and include this in your employee handbook.
- Train front-line employees. Receptionists and front-desk clerks should be on the lookout for unusual or unsettling encounters, and have clear instructions on how to handle and report them to minimize risk to themselves and others. Every employee should be instructed as to when and how to contact the police.
- Establish procedures for employees to report threats or other violent behavior. Offer several avenues for reporting: supervisors, security personnel, human resources, or if there’s imminent danger, everyone nearby.
- Document any threats and your response to them. Your zero-tolerance policy should dictate dismissal of an employee who makes a threat. If it’s a worker’s relative or friend who’s being disruptive and dangerous, you are within your legal rights to terminate the employee, provided you give him adequate warning.
Caution: When an ADA-related disability is involved, you must generally tolerate a certain level of disability-caused conduct, but you do not have to tolerate direct, violent threats to the health or safety of others in your workplace.
- Assess how your company handles stress-inducing events. For example, what is your procedure when a law enforcement officer or process server comes to see an employee? Such confrontations shouldn’t occur in view of other employees. For instance, you could instruct your receptionist to direct the officer to a private part of the office near an outside door, then quietly ask the employee involved to report to that area.
- Terminate with care. Have someone along as a witness if you have to terminate a violent employee; consider engaging plainclothes backup security. Treat the worker with dignity, and allow a way for the person to depart quietly. Afterward, change the locks on the premises.
Have a Game Plan
You should have a plan for what to do in case violence does erupt, starting with protecting yourself, calling police and warning those in the vicinity. The plan should include the following steps after the assailant leaves:
- Seek assistance from co-workers and attend to those who are injured.
- If the assailant is an employee, pull his personnel file.
- Designate someone to notify the victims’ families. Be sure all employees have a current emergency contact on file, and make it company policy to update the information annually.
- Inform a designated media spokesperson. (Newspapers and broadcast outlets often monitor police scanners and react quickly to potentially newsworthy events.)
- Notify your in-house counsel.
- Provide counselors trained in handling post-traumatic stress to talk with all the employees affected by the incident.
- Ask law enforcement for approval to clean up the site. You don’t want to damage the integrity of the evidence, but you do want to restore the site as soon as possible.
- Beware of looters, who might try to take advantage of your situation.
- Begin documentation of the event as soon as possible.