Workplace violence an increasing threat

November 17, 2008 6:47:28 PM PST
There are new warnings out about the threat of violence in the workplace. Concerns come as the economic crisis deepens and layoffs climb.

SiPort, a Santa Clara technology company, was closed Monday after a shooting left three people dead including the company CEO, Vice President of Operations and Head of Human Resources.

Jing Wu is the engineer accused of shooting his co-workers to death after being fired Friday morning.

Garry Mathiason is a senior partner with Littler Mendalson, the nation's leading labor law firm. He says the current economy is creating a perfect storm for workplace violence.

"It's the explosive chemistry of adding in the fear attached to not knowing what's happening with the economy, with the event of losing a job and that triggers, it's almost like a timebomb. It triggers the explosion," he said.

Mathiason says there are about 700 workplace homicides each year. This number is down from twice that many in 1994, due in part because businesses are better trained to watch for early warning signs.

The firm has produced a video it has shared with some 30,000 clients.

Mathiason says seeing one or more of the early warning characteristics alone is not as indicative as looking at them collectively.

Some of the top warning signs include direct or veiled threats of harm, intimidation of others, carrying concealed weapons and actually flashing them to test for reactions, an extreme interest in semi-automatic weapons, not the hunting capability but the killing power, and paranoid behavior.

Mathiason says it's important not only for employees to report seeing any of these signs, but for managers to also have a plan in place to diffuse and deal with a potential crisis.

He says violence generally erupts within 72 hours of a trigger event such as a layoff.

Police say in the case of Jing Wu, he was Friday morning and came back that afternoon with a gun.

Wu is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.


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