A recent series of New York Timesarticles <here and here> detail the various warning signs raised by the former Roanoke news station employee, Vester Lee Flanagan II, and some of the steps taken by the employer to deal with the workplace issues. Prior to his violent shooting of three individuals, Mr. Flanagan had been disciplined for having a heated conversation with a colleague, and some colleagues felt threatened and uncomfortable with him. When he was terminated for ongoing performance issues, he left in a rage and handed the news director a cross, saying Youll need this. Mr. Flanagan filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination complaint against the news station, as well as a lawsuit arising out of his dismissal.
- Policies regarding harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence should be a key focus of training, both for employees and supervisors.
- Workplace premises should be appropriately secured and monitored during and after business hours.
- Employers should consider an employee assistance program and, if they have it, encourage its use.
- Employers need to have emergency action plans, both for situations like dangerous persons and for other emergency situations like tornadoes and fires. Because each employer and each workplace is different, the plans must be site-specific and require training to ensure all employees are aware of the protocol.
- Special care needs to be paid to the termination of high-risk employees to ensure that the discussion is safe, affirms the dignity of the person, and provides clear next steps. Employers may also want to consult a trained mental health professional about how to best handle the termination.
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