The tragedies associated with gun violence in 2012 has employers rethinking how they deal with possible violence in the workplace. Keeping a safe work environment should be a priority for every employer.
Regulating Guns at Work
At least 9 states have prohibited all-out bans to guns in the workplace; not surprisingly, California is not one of them. In effect, California effectively allows you to have your own privatized gun control at the workplace. Whether it is prohibiting guns on company property or restricting them in the office, California law allows quite a bit of discretion. Compare this to the State of Kentucky that has upheld an employee's right to be able to keep your firearm in your vehicle at work. A court even held that an employer would be held liable for wrongful termination for taking adverse action against employee who exercised this right.
Employee Injury from Workplace Violence
The Workers' Compensation Exclusivity rule generally bars lawsuits against an employer for employee injury on the job, even if it is a result of gun violence from a third party or co-employee. There are some exceptions to this rule, including a circumstance where the employer is grossly negligent.
Third Party Injury from Workplace Violence
Employers may be held vicariously liable for the acts of its employees within the scope of employment. Where employers allow their employees to have firearms or other weapons, they should take heed to taking specific precautions in creating a gun policy.
For example, there is a current case at trial where a security guard carried a knife against company handbook procedures and ended up using it, possibly in the scope of his employment, to carve up a couple of customers. A sticky point is that the employers knew he carried a knife and one of the issues will be whether he acted within the scope of his security position.
Making a Gun Policy
It is common to see work policies that include an absolute ban on any weapons at work; however, the general objective of an employer should be to keep its employees safe and they should take into account the type of work environment For example, an owner of a 24 hour operation that has been robbed more than one should probably think twice when banning firearms at the workplace. Stressful work environments where tempers may run high should take the precautions to not have a permissive gun policy.
Safe Work Environment Violence
Violence is not random or unpredictable. A small effort in prevention can go a long way. Certain policies of prevent should be implemented, such as having an open door policy and conflict resolution program to prevent small concerns from growing into major disputes. Training employees is important so that the workplace can be responsive to suspicious behavior or overly stressed co-workers.
Of course less subtle ways to do deal with violence is to conduct thorough background checks and call upon experts to help in prevention policies.