We received a telephone inquiry from a manufacturing client about a temporary employee who resigned after working just seven days. When the company conducted a termination interview, the temporary employee complained about a regular employee who yelled at him, treated him with disrespect and complained about other employees and supervisors in the company. Examining the employee’s personnel file, the human resources director found a written warning for an oral altercation the regular employee had with another employee in which he yelled at her while poking his finger in the air toward her face.

What action should the company take? Is this an example of violence in the workplace? Does the company have a zero tolerance policy addressing violence in the workplace? All of these questions were addressed, along with an analysis to determine whether the alleged misconduct occurred and a determination of the appropriate disciplinary action, if any.

Regarding violence in the workplace, the company’s handbook stated that the company prohibited harassment, intimidation and threats of (or actual) violence by employees in the workplace. The policy directed supervisors to report immediately examples of potential or actual violence to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Examples included the types of words and actions that cause suspicion that the employee may create or has created an unsafe workplace. With these guidelines, in light of the employee’s past history of discipline and performance, and consistent with the company’s past practice of disciplining other employees for similar misconduct, the company acted.

All companies should be so well prepared to face increasing threats to the safety of the workplace, especially with the ease to which weapons are available and permitted by some states to be carried and concealed. Such a policy should set forth the company’s goals, a zerotolerance policy, examples and direct supervisors to report alleged violations of the policy. As with an anti-harassment policy, an antiviolence policy has become a required section of any employee handbook.