Executive Briefings

How Extensive Is Employer's Obligation to Provide Workplace Safety?

It is a nightmare for any employer: what to do with a volatile, constantly aggrieved worker who has had angry, even frightening confrontations with fellow workers - yet has committed no crime.

Because he had no convictions and had not been adjudicated mentally ill, former reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II was able to legally purchase from a licensed dealer the Glock 19 handgun used in the killings of two former co-workers at a Virginia TV station.

Employers face conflicting legal obligations and huge uncertainties. They have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace, and can even be sued for failing to prevent predictable threats, according to legal experts.

On the other hand, they must tread carefully with employees who may have mental health problems. The federal disabilities act prohibits discrimination against disabled people, including those with mental illness.

For every angry employee who might pose a serious threat, there are far more who will not and whose privacy and rights must be respected. And there is no surefire screening method.

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Because he had no convictions and had not been adjudicated mentally ill, former reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II was able to legally purchase from a licensed dealer the Glock 19 handgun used in the killings of two former co-workers at a Virginia TV station.

Employers face conflicting legal obligations and huge uncertainties. They have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace, and can even be sued for failing to prevent predictable threats, according to legal experts.

On the other hand, they must tread carefully with employees who may have mental health problems. The federal disabilities act prohibits discrimination against disabled people, including those with mental illness.

For every angry employee who might pose a serious threat, there are far more who will not and whose privacy and rights must be respected. And there is no surefire screening method.

Read Full Article