United States: Workplace Violence In The News: How To Respond If A Worker Is Served With A Restraining Order

Last Updated: April 11 2016
Article by Travis W. Vance

After yet another incident of workplace violence in the news, we have to consider that any employee served with a restraining order should be treated as a reason to take workplace security precautions. The shooter in the most recent workplace mass shooting, which took place in Kansas in late February 2016, started his shooting spree immediately after he was served with a restraining order while at the workplace. It is unknown whether the shooter had issues at work, or if the restraining order triggered his rampage and the workers were merely convenient targets.

While you cannot accurately predict everyone who may present a risk of workplace violence, perhaps you can anticipate and head off some incidents. Many workplace violence episodes are related to non-work issues and may include family or marital conflict, divorces, and child custody disputes. And if served with legal process while at work, an employee may use violence to take out such frustrations towards bosses and colleagues simply because coworkers are nearby.

Rather than take a reactive approach to workplace violence, you should consider acting proactively in an effort to stop these incidents. We recommend implementing a pre-mortem analysis of "what could go wrong" instead of waiting for a "what went wrong" review after the fact.

Consider adopting some of the following measures to protect employees from irate coworkers and others.

1. Pay Attention If An Employee Is Served With Legal Process

If a sheriff arrives to serve legal process on an employee, watch for red flags. If the employee becomes irate, consider trying to talk individually and calm the employee. Alert your security team if the employee makes threats. Hopefully a manager can avoid escalation, but you may have to ask security to escort the employee to an isolated area where he or she can meet with management. 

You may want to ask the employee if he or she desires counseling, although this may be an inflammatory move – you will be the best judge of that. Offer administrative leave if a cooling-off period is appropriate. If the employee is especially antagonistic or you have heard reports of possible violent behavior, you may have to involve outside security or law enforcement from the outset.

If the employee storms off prior to an opportunity to meet with him or her, ensure that any on-site security is aware of the situation. If you receive any threats, call the police in advance. Don't wait for the irate employee to return. If necessary, you should consider retaining a private armed security service. Unfortunately, your local law enforcement department is often limited in how it can respond to threats and bad behavior. The prudent course may be to retain security for a certain period of time until things have cooled down.

2. Request Information From Employees Who Seek Protective Orders

You must thoughtfully consider whether you should encourage employees to tell you when they are involved in a dispute where violence may be a risk. This is especially the case when the employee has requested a restraining order. 

If an employee has requested a protective order, ask for a photograph of the recipient of the legal process. Provide the photo to any on-site security, reception employees, and management. If the individual arrives at your workplace for any reason, have the designated company representative approach the individual in a calm manner, isolate the individual in a designated area, and request that security respond to the situation. 

Don't offer to provide security to employees when off duty. This may establish a legal duty to protect the employee where none otherwise exists. Instead, you should encourage the employee to call the police if they feel threatened while off duty.

In any of these situations, you should obtain guidance from law enforcement and security professionals who can tailor their advice to your specific workplace. In order to have such advice available, you should establish relationships with professional security advisors now.

3. Recognize Your Responsibility

Before you ask or require employees to alert you to requests for restraining orders or concerns about domestic violence, remember that once you ask for this information, you are taking on a duty to respond to this knowledge. A Missouri court recently found an employer liable because it was on notice of threats from an employee's ex-boyfriend and offered to form ad hoc groups of employees to walk her to her car instead of using professional security ( read more here). An incompetent or incomplete response to workplace violence concerns or to an active shooter may be used as evidence that you failed to meet your duty.

4. Educate And Train Your Employees

Experts tell us that there are two types of training: preparing for what could happen, and responding once something bad has already happened. Most employers have done neither.

Any training program should require every worker to at least view the Department of Homeland Security's "Run, Hide, Fight" video about surviving an active shooter situation. However, you should evaluate your individual workplace for exposure and devise specific solutions as you would for any potential safety hazard.

While there are no guaranteed signs that an employee is going to engage in violent acts, there are signs of unacceptable behavior that you can train your workforce to address.

We recommend you develop specific training based on your work setting, location, and security layout, as well as general situational awareness. Analyze situations involving employee travel, working alone, or working at a customer's home or business. Consider professional instruction by an active shooter expert who can provide on-site, simulation-based training.

Meanwhile, you can beef up your policies about professional behavior, bullying, and workplace rage. Educate your employees to recognize unacceptable behavior, and train your supervisors to address it before it advances to actual violence.

5. Revise Your Emergency Action Plan (EAP)  

If you have more than 10 employees, you must develop a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP) when another OSHA Standard triggers the requirement to have an EAP. In addition, if fire extinguishers are available in your workplace, and if anyone will be evacuating during a fire or other emergency, you must have an EAP.

At a minimum, the EAP must include the following elements: the means of reporting fires and other emergencies; evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments; procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate; accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed; rescue and medical duties for employees performing them; and names or job titles of persons who can be contacted.

Now is the time to ensure your EAP is broad enough to cover management of an active shooter situation or respond to an irate worker served with legal process. Do employees know what to do if such an emergency arose? Who calls the police? Where do the employees go? Do you have an on-site security presence? How do they respond? Have you rehearsed your response to such a situation?

Workplace shootings continue to occur at an alarming rate and yet many employers have not addressed this concern in their safety training programs. No perfect response is currently available, but you should begin taking steps to avoid these situations and minimize the risk to your workplace.

A version of this article originally appeared at the Fisher & Phillips Workplace Safety and Health Law blog, which can be found by clicking here or visiting workplacesafetyandhealthlaw.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Travis W. Vance
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.