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That Deadly Intersection of Workplace Violence & Domestic Violence

January 17, 2020

The WVPI published a two-part series on the particularly dangerous form of workplace violence resulting from domestic violence in October 2019. We stated that domestic violence in the workplace impacts others, not just the two parties involved, and can quickly spiral out of control due to the toxicity and high emotions involved. We offered recommendations to address this safety risk.

 

 

 

 

We also presented a horrific case study where an estranged spouse murdered his wife, a grade school special education teacher, shot and killed one of her students, wounded a second student and then committed suicide in front of several terrified other students. 

 

In light of Wednesday's tragic murder-suicide in Colorado involving two teens which we reported on yeserday's blog, we are republishing the two-part piece from last October here:

 

PART I:

 

What happens at home does not always stay at home.

 

Does your employer recognize domestic violence as a potential workplace safety concern?

 

Not only the domestic partner but everyone else - colleagues, customers, clients and others - are potentially at risk when domestic violence meets workplace violence.

 

The time to understand just how potentially deadly these situations are is not when an intimate partner enters the workplace armed with a weapon to do harm to his or her partner.

 

Overview:

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than half of female homicide victims are killed in connection with intimate partner/domestic violence.

 

Per the CDC, in 10 percent of these cases prior violence that erupted shortly before these killings might have provided an opportunity for intervention. Sadly opportunities to save lives have therefore been missed or ignored.

 

Many disgruntled intimate partners or former intimate partners confront their victims at work.  They do so because work is one location where the latter can be expected to be for a stretch of time per a routine work schedule.

 

Employers may not recognize the hidden threats domestic violence poses. Thus employers may be caught off guard when a disgruntled partner confronts his/her estranged partner at work or in the parking lot adjacent to work.

 

Workplace violence arising from domestic situations are potentially extremely lethal not just to victims but co-workers and other non-involved parties who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. This is due to the high levels of emotion and uncontrolled rage involved in intimate partner-related violence that explodes at work.

 

Tips for Employers Who Wish to Mitigate the Risk of Domestic Violence Meeting Workplace Violence.

 

1.  Offer Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services to your employees who are being victimized by domestic violence.

 

EAP professionals can provide a myriad of necessary services to the employee including counseling.

 

The EAP professional may recognize the red flags as to when the employee is at risk of life-threatening violence by a significant other before it happens and can encourage the employee to take action.

 

2.  If a disgruntled partner enters the workplace, call the police immediately. Do not attempt to mediate the problem yourself.

 

3.  Never encourage co-workers to get involved in a colleague's domestic problem by for instance, suggesting co-workers walk the victim to and from his or her car. If the disgruntled partner attacks in the employee parking lot, everyone including the bystander co-workers' safety could be at risk.

 

4. If you learn an employee is suffering from domestic violence recognize the potential exists that the angered ex may try to confront the employee at work at some point. Take measures to protect not just the employee who is experiencing domestic violence but other employees, customers, clients and visitors to the workplace.

 

For instance implement a policy barring any and all non-employee including intimate partners from gaining access to the workplace during business hours for any purpose.

 

PART II:

 

Does your organization recognize domestic violence as a potential workplace violence/safety concern? 

 

One of the most devastating episodes of domestic violence meeting workplace violence transpired in a special education classroom after a non-employee was granted access to his wife's workplace.

 

The following tragic case reveals that when a deadly episode of domestic violence occurs in the workplace the safety of everyone can be compromised, not just the targeted victim.

 

Case Study:

 

North Park Elementary School is located in San Bernardino, California. CCTV video footage from April 10, 2017 reveals  that Cedric Anderson attempted to enter the school while classes were in session through a door which he found was locked.

 

Undeterred, he walked over to the school’s main entrance and was granted access after stating he needed to drop something off to his spouse who taught there.

 

Minutes later, Anderson entered the special needs classroom where his 53-year-old estranged wife Karen Elaine Smith was employed as a teacher. 

 

Smith was standing in the middle of the classroom mere feet away from Anderson when he opened fire in front of a roomful of terrified youngsters.

 

Anderson killed two victims: Smith and an eight-year-old student. Anderson also wounded another child who luckily survived. Thereafter, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

 

Smith and Anderson were newlyweds, married for only approximately four months at the time of the shooting. Smith became enraged after Anderson told him she wanted to leave the relationship.

 

As we have seen time and time again, angered domestic partners who confront their partners at work have a record of prior violence and Anderson was no exception.

 

Anderson had a well-documented prior history of domestic violence. In 1997, Anderson’s then ex-wife filed a petition for domestic violence restraining order against him, claiming that Anderson had threatened to kill her, her three sons and himself.

 

According to the woman, he later threatened to kidnap their children. In another  filing, the same woman claimed that Anderson had assaulted her in front of his sister after he dropped off their children there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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