Employers Must Take Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence
On March 23, 2016, Rep. Mike Stewart brought an AR-15 style rifle to the Tennessee legislature, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. Stewart walked into a House Civil Justice Subcommittee meeting with the gun to make a point. The weapon was bought online and picked up in a restaurant parking lot. There was no call for a background check, and Stewart received the rifle hours after purchase.
Stewart used the gun to prove his point about the ease of obtaining military-grade weapons without proper screening. He pitched two new bills to increase requirements for background checks. Legislation like this is constantly being proposed at the federal and state level as stories of public shootings continue to dominate the news.
A lawmaker brought a gun into a federal building to raise awareness of screenings. Businesses can't wait for the government to step in because workplace violence can prove both dangerous and costly to U.S. companies.
The Danger of Employee Violence
Finding the right employees increases a company's productivity and positive environment. Hiring the wrong people, however, can be dangerous to the business's bottom line and to employee safety. Demand Media reported that after criminals such as burglars, co-workers are the most likely cause of workplace violence - accounting for 21 percent of incidents. This of course varies by industry, but it should be a primary concern for all decision-makers.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries shared National Workplace Safety findings that said on-the-job violence and assaults cost U.S. companies more than $4 billion annually in missed days of work and legal expenses. Workplace violence cases exceed 2,000 claims a year - about 12 claims for every 10,000 employees in the country. When individuals attack co-workers, consumers or managers, there are the direct costs of medical treatments and disability pensions and indirect costs, such as lost productivity and decreasing customer sentiment, to consider.
It's hard to keep full-time employees in environments where they don't feel safe, and even more difficult to attract customers. High-profile acts of violence create negative public relations for brands. A company's primary concern should always be the safety of the people who interact with the organization, but acknowledging the financial cost may help convince decision-makers it's time to invest in advanced screening services.
Performing Legal Background Checks
Some industries see more violent employee incidents than others. However, background screening is especially important in job sectors that include more vulnerable individuals, such as healthcare and education.
Tennessee is one of the few states that requires schools to perform background checks before hiring teachers, but some lawmakers feel even this isn't enough. The Tennessean reported U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackwood wants to replace individual regional standards for employment screening - which federal investigations found let too many problematic individuals through - with consistent federal laws for how teachers should be hired. Primary goals of the new bill include ensuring employee records are passed state to state and credentials are periodically rechecked.
While certain industries try to enforce thorough employment screenings, legislation is also being proposed to restrict what organizations can ask during initial hiring procedures. In Tennessee, a bill in the current legislature corresponds with the recent "Ban the Box" movement, according to CBS Knoxville News. The potential standards would prevent state employers from asking about a candidate's criminal background during early screening processes.
If the Tennessee "Ban the Box" bill passes, people looking to fill state jobs can ask about criminal histories during later interview stages, but the new standards encourage employers to inquire about the specifics of troubling incidents. "Ban the Box" proponents want to stop ex-cons from missing chances due to discrimination. They want evaluators to limit inquiries to background questions that directly apply to particular positions and workplace risks.
The Society for Human Resource Management said screening can help prevent workplace violence if the company knows to ask the right questions. While a criminal background may be an indicator, employers should also check for a history of drug use, ability to deal with stress and whether or not individuals will fit into a company culture. This may call for custom screening activities and questions during interviews.
Companies in any industry can create unique and thorough employment screenings with the help of an experienced third-party service. Working with a partner helps companies stay in compliance as new regulations are introduced by local legislators. Also, a screening service should be a consistent source for data as companies choose to reevaluate hiring practices and current staff to respond to safety concerns inspired by recent events.
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