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Help! Employee drawing violent pictures at work - California

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  • Help! Employee drawing violent pictures at work - California

    We've discovered that an employee has been drawing violent pictures at his desk. The picture is of someone shooting someone else in the head. The shooter looks close enough that it could be a self portrait of this employee shooting someone. Also found pages upon pages of him just writing down every angry thought he has, about how everyone's a moron and he's so sick of dealing with them.

    Of course it could be harmless venting, but in today's world I feel like we have to treat this stuff like a zero tolerance policy.

    HR's initial response was to suspend him and require that he get counseling before returning. However, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. I think we should terminate. The people who saw the drawings are all scared of him now and I think it's not fair to them to make them work next to someone who scares them like that. I could see those employees quitting out of fear for their safety. I'm thinking I'm going to push back on HR on this issue.

    Has anyone dealt with this before? What did you do? What would you do if it were your organization?
    Last edited by indoorninja; 02-11-2019, 07:16 PM.

  • #2
    Unrelated to the specifics of your question, you have an employee who is doing something other then work while they are being paid. If the employee was drawing pictures of fluffy bunnies and writing odes to them, you will still have a problem. I am fine with taking a job action based on the "not working while being paid" aspects, and I am fine with addressing the issues you raised. I just do not have an answer. I would be inclined to terminate based on the "not working while being paid" but that would not stop dude from coming back later with a gun (or ax). Maybe the police or FBI have an idea. If dude pops and you have done nothing ...
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by DAW View Post
      If dude pops and you have done nothing ...
      Yes! This is my main concern. I think that HR is looking at the potential risks of a wrongful termination claim, but I'm worried about the risks of keeping him around.

      As unlikely as it is that he may go nuts, I don't want that on my conscience if he does. Whenever there's workplace violence, people usually come out of the woodwork talking about all the signs that this was going to happen and why nobody took action to prevent it.

      As for the drawing while not working, we don't really have evidence of that. He spends most of the day on the phone with customers so he could be doodling while he's talking to them, thus, not really impacting his productivity. He's not the only one that draws while on the phone. He's just the only one we know of that produces disturbing content.

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      • #4
        There is no substantial risk of a wrongful termination claim. Anyone can claim anything but Employment At Will is the law of the land. For a wrongful termination claim to succeed, an actual law has to be broken/

        I am sorry that I do not have a good answer for your main concern, other then talk to the police and see if they have ideas. If nothing else, this guy needs to be on someone's radar.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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        • #5
          There is absolutely no risk of a successful wrongful termination claim.

          Let me ask you a question, and believe me, I am taking you seriously. It's just that your options differ depending on the answer to this question.

          Who are you in this scenario? The employee's supervisor? A co-worker? The office manager? Someone else?

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          • #6
            Forgive my French, but if HR is more scared of a wrongful termination claim than an employee with clear rage issues showing potential to become violent in the workplace, then HR doesn't know what the f*** they are doing.

            As everyone else has said, there is zero risk of wrongful termination here. For wrongful termination, there has to be some illegal basis-discrimination based on sex, race, age, etc. Nothing protects an employee who is drawing violent pictures and expressing violent thoughts, in any format, in the workplace.

            As ladycathryn said, your options are somewhat different based on what your relationship in the hierarchy is-but if HR won't act, I wouldn't hesitate to go over HR's head to whoever is over them-including if that's the CEO and express your concerns in a calm, rational manner. If they are still more afraid of getting sued than they are for their employee's safety, I'd start updating my resume.

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            • #7
              Any employee can threaten a lawsuit. If they have enough money, they can even go through with it. But as every one else has stated, THEY HAVE NO CASE and will lose. No attorney will take such as case on spec. I used to get threatening letters from no-name attorneys occasionally when I worked for a very large company you have all heard of. I took one of those letters to in house Legal, who wadded it up and tossed it. They said having a no-name attorney send a letter cost $100. Going to court costs real money, especially when you do not have a case. They said if the employee (ever) had a real case they would go to an actual firm which specializes in labor law issues, and that attorney would call up our attorney and invite them to lunch, put their cards on the table during lunch, and suggest a settlement. Sending a "give me money" letter from a no-name attorney is a sure sign of not having an actual case.
              "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
              Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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              • #8
                BTW, regardless of your role, if the employer has an EAP this would be a very good time to make use of it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ladycathryn View Post
                  There is absolutely no risk of a successful wrongful termination claim.

                  Let me ask you a question, and believe me, I am taking you seriously. It's just that your options differ depending on the answer to this question.

                  Who are you in this scenario? The employee's supervisor? A co-worker? The office manager? Someone else?
                  I'm the operations manager. The employee's supervisor reports to me.

                  And thank you all for the advice. HR came back to me and are re-evaluating our steps right now.

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                  • #10
                    Keep us posted.

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