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Protective Orders and the Workplace

Recent shooting highlights challenges businesses face

On a brisk November morning a female employee at a small electrical company in Winters CA arrived at work and was ambushed as she sat in her car. The alleged gunman was her estranged husband, whom she had a long and violent history with, including an active restraining order. Tragically, the protective order would not be enough to keep her safe and she was killed that morning. It’s unknown what, if any, knowledge the owners of the business had of the ongoing domestic violence. What is clear is that despite the tragic loss of life, the incident could have been much worse. The gunman could have chosen to attack his wife inside the business. A quick scan of the internet will point you to a long list of stori

es of domestic violence spilling into the workplace, with unintended victims being injured alongside the abuser’s target. In a troubling juxtaposition, all too often extreme violence has been tied to a victim either seeking or having recently obtained a protection order. Here are some other points to consider.

  • Our workforces are a reflection of society. The problems that society faces will carry over into the workplace.

  • Protective orders are only effective if the “restrained” person is willing to follow them. A piece of paper will not keep you or your staff safe.

  • Be mindful that the most dangerous time is when a victim is trying to leave their abuser.

  • Accept the fact that victims may of go back to their abuser, don’t take it personally, it’s a complicated issue with many dynamics.

The challenge for businesses has always been trying to determine the right balance of support vs. intruding into employees’ private lives. The reality of domestic violence is that the abuser knows two places where they can find their victim with almost certainty; at home and at the workplace. Regardless of an organizations desire, or lack thereof, to get involved, domestic violence does spill into the workplace. So what can a company do to protect their workforce and respect the privacy of individual employees?

  • Maintain strong and open communication with your employees

  • Have multiple methods for staff to report concerns

  • Provide training for staff and managers on recognition of domestic violence indicators

  • Consider establishing a relationship with a domestic violence shelter. Employee assistance programs can feel cold and impersonal. In Sacramento County WEAVE is an excellent resource.

  • Consider appropriate security measures to take when a threat occurs.

  • If you don’t already have one, consider establishing an Threat Management Team. This team will conduct an assessment if/when a threat is identified and determines a course of action. Even smaller companies can use a team approach to assess situations.

The single greatest factor to identifying and then being in a position to help prevent incidents of violence in the workplace is having a good relationship with your employees. If your employees feel comfortable coming forward with concerns and your management team knows how to respond you significantly increase your chances of addressing problems before they can escalate to violence.

About the Author:

Mr. Alvarez is the founder of Alvarez Associates, a workplace threat management firm specializing in workplace violence prevention. Having been both a security director for a major national critical infrastructure and a city police officer, he has built over 25 years of experience. He understands the challenges organizations and communities face addressing the threat of violence. Hector has the honor of working with organizations, both corporate and community based to build safer communities through keynote speeches, workshops, security assessments, trainings and behavioral threat assessments.

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