When workplace violence becomes deadly
February 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm #153591
What do you think can be done to prevent workplace violence in the aftermath of a proposed disciplinary action?
In response to last week’s tragic events involving DHS immigration agents, Bill Wiley writes, “Here at FELTG we have taught for many years that discipline in the workplace can easily become deadly. Please take whatever steps are necessary to reduce the chances of something terrible like this happening in your office (e.g., escort employees out the door on admin leave after proposing a removal, have security standing by throughout the process, cut off access to the facility and to agency email).”
February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm #153593
In my many years as a supervisor in the federal government, I only had 4 discipline cases but 2 went sour fast! I had one employee threaten my life numerous times over proposed discipline and another attempt suicide – TWICE – over his discipline.
In the first case, the employee was fired for conduct. He not only made threats to me, he had physically assaulted a number of his co-workers — tackling one and throwing another to the floor by the scarf around her neck during his 30 days notice period (CRAZY!!). He filed a succession of complaints to MSPB, and then to federal courts in EEO and finally Civil Rights suits. After 7 years of complaining, he was awarded 7 years full back pay and benefits and allowed to retire on a disability retirement because EEOC was not timely in responding to the court. (It didn’t help that he had an 11 year history of bad behavior and assaults in the agency and had worked in nearly every division as the problem child was moved instead of being dealt with.)
In the second case, the employee was an alcoholic in the Employee Assistance Program. He was sent to Rehab but pulled himself out and was trying to get his GS-15 girlfriend to come to his house and talk. She called me, I called him and told him to go back to rehab, he pulled the trigger but the rifle barrel was too long and he just blew away the side of his face. Two months later, he came back to work — still in the highly confidential Employee Assitance Program and after his “serious auto accident” (which explained the disfigured face.) Every day I searched his briefcase and desk when I could, looking for a gun or bomb or booze, knowing that he would try again but unable to send him home. The day I went on vacation, he convinced his girlfriend to talk to him, he brought a gun over and took her hostage in her home for hours until she convinced him to put the gun in the car, locked the door and called police. After the police left, he pulled out front of her house and pulled the trigger — successfully this time. (Prior to working for me, he had worked for “a friend” in another agency who gave him her highest recommendation “to get him a second chance.”)
I am a strong advocate of the federal government moving to “at will” employment just like the state governments of Texas, Georgia and Florida that have become the incubators, innovators and experimentors of HR transformation — some good, some great, some bad.
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