Random acts of violence can strike anytime, anywhere. Even at work. You might be the employer. You might be the employee. At the end of the day, a murder in the workplace will affect you the same way. It will be traumatic. It will leave you feeling confused, perhaps even powerless. You will question what comes next. You might not want to go into work. What should you do?
Should the murderer survive the event, it’s likely that a criminal felony attorney will be retained by the culprit. The employer might find similar services to make sure all bases are covered from a legal point of view — because the employer is responsible for ensuring a safe workplace.
According to the United States government, homicide is the third leading cause of death in a person’s workplace.
Richard Denenberg, co-author of The Violence-Prone Workplace: A New Approach to Dealing With Hostile, Threatening and Uncivil Behavior, said, “Many of the cases that we noted in our book on the violence-prone workplace resulted from garden-variety problems that were allowed to fester.”
Phoenix psychologist Lynne Falkin McClure, PhD, agrees. She said there are several types of red-flag behavior when someone is at work. “The first is what I call ‘fragmentation behavior,’ where the employee takes no responsibility for his own actions.”
There are other types of behaviors that McClure says employers must watch for. They include “actor behavior,” where an employee responds with anger instead of resolution, “Me-first” behavior, where an employee promotes their own well-being over coworkers, “Mixed-messenger” behavior, where an employee’s self-image doesn’t seem to align with actions taken, and “wooden-stick” behavior, where a worker fails to change when required. McClure acknowledged that many employees will resort to lying tactics as well.
What does this all mean when a murder occurs in the workplace? Usually, it means the incident could have — and should have — been prevented. It could also mean that an employer is liable for any trauma, pain and suffering, or collateral damage experienced by employees. The employer might also be liable for wrongful death if sued by the family.
What should you do as an employer when a murder occurs in your workplace? Obviously, call the police and EMS immediately. Close up shop, send your employees home, and make as many calls as you can to ensure that employees who were present at the time of the murder are okay. Be sure to provide grief counseling to anyone who needs it. Find legal counsel.
What should you do as an employee when a murder occurs in your workplace? It’s important to process your feelings. Speak to a counselor and ask your employer to offer these services, which are generally covered by law. If you feel the act of violence could have been prevented or that your needs are not being met, then it might be time to retain the services of a qualified attorney. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s mistakes!