We live in a world where children must practice active shooter drills in school. It’s possible their parents and others might eventually join in this unfortunate-but-necessary practice because, while rare, workplace shootings are on the rise.
From California to Connecticut, law firms are not immune to workplace shootings. Just as law firm managers must consider the risk of fire, flood or other disasters that could negatively impact the workplace and work product, active shooter events should now be factored into any firm’s risk mitigation priorities.
The first step in mitigating the potential for a workplace shooting is having an idea of what risk factors can contribute to these types of incidents. The most obvious factor to consider is a former employee; in particular, any former disgruntled employee. Many of the reported workplace shooting incidents we see and read about through news media involve individuals who have been dismissed from their positions and later return with the intention of causing harm. Recognizing the trauma of a job loss can help employers best ensure that a dismissal doesn’t turn into a violent event.
Having appropriate resources and personnel available when a firm employee is dismissed, including human resource professionals and, in some cases, security, can be vital. If there is a concern that a dismissed worker might retaliate, having security on-site the day of termination and for several days after might be advisable.
Some employers, through outside HR consultants, provide the dismissed employee with support services to help them quickly begin their job search. These outside consultants can help former employees prepare to address their termination in job interviews, prepare their résumés and even suggest counseling services if needed. These types of support systems can help those who are traumatized by the unexpected loss of their jobs.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), some employers take preventative action by providing psychological support services to help employees with issues like anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. These services help ensure that issues don’t get out of control and manifest as workplace violence.
Law firms should take these situations into account as they assess their insurance liability risks, just as they would for the risk of fire, flood or other disasters. If there is any suspicion a worker might engage in workplace violence, and the firm takes no action to mitigate that risk, the firm may be liable for any resulting action. Also, ignoring or minimizing concerns raised by support staff, lawyers or other partners – even clients – may could result in claims being denied.
The best advice is to speak with your insurance provider about any concerns you, your employees or partners might have about workplace violence. Make sure your liability coverage addresses any such incidents, from minor to major, and work with your provider to come up with a mitigation plan to help ensure your law office does not become one of the next workplace violence incidents in the news.