You don’t need to be afraid to go to work and you certainly don’t have to put up with threats of violence on the job. Laws and workplace policies are designed to protect you from putting up with abusive behavior in any shape or form, let alone violence. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks workplace violence through the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, and reports that in 2010 518 workplace homicides occurred in the United States, which accounted for 11 percent of all workplace deaths. Of those murders, 77 incidents included multiple victims.
Your boss can’t protect you if she doesn’t know what’s going on. A complete investigation will take place after you make allegations of a threat; relate the details of the event as clearly as possible as soon after it happens. Encourage witnesses to back up your claims and document the time and exact words or actions that caused you to become fearful. Once the offender is outed, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to follow through on threats with everyone watching.
Check Company Policy
If you have any doubt what happened to you was a threat, check with your HR department or read your company policy manual. Businesses usually define what is considered a threat and what it considers actionable offenses. For example, if you’re not sure if teasing about getting violent falls under the company policy, look it up and use the written policy to back up your report. The policy should also clearly spell out the consequences to the offender making the threats, whether they’re made in person, in writing or through an email.
Follow Chain of Command
If you don’t think your immediate supervisor takes your accusations seriously or didn’t do enough to alleviate your fear, take your claim up the chain of command. Go to the owner of the company if you have to and if you still believe you are in danger, call the police. If you feel an imminent threat, don’t even bother telling your boss, go straight for 911 and get immediate backup. You can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, if you believe your employer is not providing you with a safe work environment. Under OSHA rules, you can’t be punished for making a complaint against your boss.
You can request that someone walk you out to your car at the end of the day if the person who threatened you is still hanging around or if you’re scared to be alone in a dark parking garage. Take time off if the situation feels dangerous. Don’t return until you know the situation has been handled to your satisfaction. Your employer can take a number of measures to ensure your safety, from changing locks to adding electronic security in the workplace.
- Nonprofit Risk Management Center: Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence
- Society for Human Resource Management: Workplace Violence
- Employee Benefit News: When an Employee Threatens Violence
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Workplace Homicides from Shootings
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: You Have the Right to a Safe Workplace
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."