Managing Workplace Threats: Employee Risk Assessment and Monitoring

T&M recommends sharing this important advisory with your Human Resources executives.

About 2 million Americans report being victims of workplace violence each year, and many more cases go unreported, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some incidents are deadly and highlight the security threat that employees can pose to their co-workers and company.
In June 2016, an armed employee of Walmart took two hostages inside the store, including a manager with whom he had a work-related dispute. Police intervened and shot the hostage taker before any other employees were hurt. In the same month, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history occurred, as 49 people were killed and 53 others injured in an Orlando nightclub. It appears that the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, may have exhibited warning signs prior to the attack, having made homophobic and racial slurs to co-workers in the workplace. He also had a history of domestic violence.

It is worth noting that risks posed by current employees go beyond violence in the workplace, and can include a range of legal, financial, and reputational damages. In the case of the Orlando nightclub massacre, information regarding the shooter's employer was published in news media sources. As soon as news broke that he was employed with global security firm G4S, the company's stock dropped significantly. While this pales in significance to the lives of 49 people that were cut short in this tragedy, it serves as an example of how a single employee's actions can cause significant financial and reputational damage to an entity.

These events serve as fresh reminders of the potential risks posed by employees and the responsibility of employers to conduct not just thorough pre-employment background checks, but to also have an incident response plan in place, provide effective workplace violence and personal safety training, and maintain a process for reporting suspicious or threatening behavior as well as have the ability to conduct pre-employment, ongoing and post-employment screening. Even when red flags are brought to the attention of law enforcement, there are limits to how long investigations can be kept open in the absence of an imminent threat. As a third party investigative firm, T&M provides due diligence and security solutions that can help mitigate the risk posed by future, current, and/or former employees.

Workplace threats are not unique to companies operating in the United States; in fact a recent report published by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) highlights the growing concern for companies operating in India over radicalization and workplace violence based on lone-wolf ISIL-inspired attacks in the United States, France and Belgium. The report cited examples of employees at different companies throughout India showing support for terrorist groups like ISIL and in one case urging youth to join the terrorist group. It can be difficult for companies to know what the appropriate response is to such incidents, especially when concerning behavior is identified online or on social media. T&M's due diligence and on-going monitoring capabilities extend virtually throughout the world.

T&M emphasizes that surface-level pre-employment background screening, while necessary, does not do away with risks posed by employees and in fact can give entities a false sense of security. To help reduce risk, T&M advises that your firm take advantage of a full suite of workplace safety solutions, including pre, post and ongoing employee background investigations, workplace violence and personal safety training, to include active shooter scenarios, development of threat management programs and crisis management planning. In particular, T&M provides customized employee risk assessments and monitoring plans that take a multi-faceted approach, incorporating background, intelligence, social media and data forensics information, thereby increasing the chance of detecting a potentially threatening individual before he or she acts.

The most effective approach to employee screening is one that is customized and includes ongoing monitoring. The depth of work can vary from monthly criminal, civil and credit check updates, to real world observations and surveillance. Of course, there is no way to prevent all potential workplace threats with one hundred percent certainty, but by implementing the due diligence efforts described above, an organization can at least know that it is prudently attempting to minimize the risk of those threats.