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Some Thoughts About How to Prevent Gun Violence in the Workplace

Although it did not happen in the workplace, the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas is a fresh reminder of a serious problem that faces employers in the United States. How do you protect your employees from gun violence? 

Starting with the obvious, many employers have developed policies that prohibit employees from possessing firearms in the workplace, although in many states they cannot prohibit employees from storing firearms in their vehicles or in company parking lots. Beefing up the physical security of the workplace can also make your employees safer: better lighting and alarms and minimizing access by outsiders through badges and electronic keys.

Unfortunately, while effective against certain threats, these traditional precautionary measures for preventing gun violence in the workplace are unlikely to discourage an employee who is intent on harming his coworkers. So what are some other things that an employer can do?

For one, companies should establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence and harassment and encourage employees to report any person (coworker, contractor, or customer) who acts aggressively or in an antisocial manner, even if there is no actual violence involved. Supervisors and human resources managers, in turn, should not ignore any behaviors that come to their attention. Such behaviors need to be addressed even if they are not the type of behaviors that would typically result in discipline. Remember, however, that some supervisors may be better than others at counseling employees who have difficulties dealing with stress in the workplace — HR should be mindful of who takes the lead in these sometimes difficult conversations.

Finally, every time I read about a mass shooter, I wonder if things might have been different if they had been able to talk to a professional about what was happening in their lives. What would have happened if they had called their company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Unfortunately, the information about most companies’ EAP is often hidden somewhere on the company intranet. For this reason, I urge you to continually remind your employees that this benefit exists to help them and that they should not hesitate to use this benefit even when dealing with minor stresses. While there is only so much an employer can do, these steps might prevent a problem before it even becomes one.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.