Legal Alert: Keeping Violence Out of the Work Environment

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After the tragic shooting in Tucson, details have emerged about the alleged gunman's history of disturbing behavior. Although there are no easy answers, people continue to ask whether there were any warning signs that could have been addressed in a way that might have prevented such a tragedy. Because of the complexity of the issue, employers may be unsure how to deal with employees who exhibit unsettling behavior that could foreshadow violence in the workplace. In considering their alternatives, employers should keep in mind both state and federal laws as well as workplace safety.

Workplace violence is a problem. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, nearly five percent of 7.1 million private businesses experienced an incident of workplace violence in the previous year. Half of employers with more than 1,000 employees experienced a violent workplace incident in the last year. The National Center for Victims of Crime states that one out of six violent crimes experienced by U.S. residents occur at work, and in 2009, there were 521 homicides at work.

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