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Workplace Violence Prevention News

Protective orders and the workplace

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Protective Orders and the Workplace

Recent shootings highlight challenges businesses face


Just a few months ago the normal weekend routine was tragically broken with the shooting of seven women at Azana Salon and Spa, an upscale 9000sqft facility in Broomfield, Wisconsin leaving four people dead, including the suspected gunman. The gunman was the estranged husband of one of the spas employees. He was not a stranger to the women who worked at the spa. A few weeks before the shooting Radcliffe Haughton was accused of slashing the tires on his wife's car in the parking lot of the spa. She responded with all the resources she had available; contacting police and getting a temporary restraining order. Three days before the shooting, the order was made permanent by the courts and extended to four years. Less than one month berfore the shooting at Azana Salon and Spa, a similar scene played out in Orlando Florida in the lobby of the Quality Suites Hotel. Two women lost their lives at the hands of an estranged boyfriend who was served with a restraining order the night before.


In both cases there had been incidents of alleged domestic violence prior to the shooting, including acts that took place at each of the victims' places of work. It's unknown what, if any knowledge the owners and managers of these businesses had of the ongoing domestic violence.   What is clear is that the protective orders were not effective. Coworkers died alongside the "protected" women at the hands of men that were not deterred by a piece of paper. There are several key lessons that we can take away from these tragedies.  


  • Our workforces are largely 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
  • Businesses owners and managers should be prepared to develop creative solutions if one of their employees finds themselves in a domestic violence situation
  • It's important to maintain open lines of communication with your employees so that they feel comfortable enough to bring their concerns forward


The challenge for businesses has always been trying to determine the right balance of support compared to intrusion into employees' private lives. The reality of domestic violence is that the abuser knows two places where he can find his victim with almost certainty; at home and at the workplace. Regardless of an organizations desire to get involved or not, domestic violence does spill into the workplace.   So what can a company do to protect their workforce and respect the privacy of individual employees?

  • Accept the fact that a protective order may not keep your staff safe 
  • If a credible threat exists consider all options
  • Maintain strong and open communication with your employees
  • Trust your intuition and that of your staff 
  • Provide training for staff and managers on recognition of workplace violence indicators
  • Provide managers with the tools, resources and training to be able to recognize and respond when workplace concerns are brought to their attention.  
  • Establish an employee assistance program
  • Consider having a community domestic violence awareness group deliver a presentation to your organization
  • Consider elevating security measures when a credible threat exists. This may be as simple as sharing with impacted coworkers the nature of the threat and keeping doors locked.
  • Work closely with local law enforcement
  • Establish an incident response team. This team will conduct an assessment if/when a threat is identified and determine a course of action. 


In summary, the key to identifying and then responding to potential incidents of violence in the workplace is having a strong, supportive relationship with your employees. Showing compassion and concern for your employees strengthens the relationship.  Imagine how much harder your employees will work if they know you care about their safety as much as their productivity.   If your employees feel comfortable coming forward with concerns and your management team knows how to respond you significantly increase your chances of detecting problems before they can escalate to violence.


About the Author 

Hector Alvarez is the founder of Alvarez Associates, a 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 in the field of violence prevention. For 15 years he directed cutting edge security programs focused specifically on preventing and responding to "active shooters" in private sector environments.  He understands the challenges organizations and communities face addressing the threat of violence.  Hector has the privilege of working with organizations both corporate and community based to build safer communities through keynote speeches, workshops, security assessments, trainings and behavioral threat assessments. He has personally evaluated and managed hundreds of potentially violent situations, developed numerous violence prevention programs and trained thousands of employees and managers in workplace violence prevention. He has also witnessed the collapse of civil order first-hand as a responder to both the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.



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