I am a new Human Resources Manager at a small company that does not have a workplace violence prevention policy. I am wondering if we should have a policy, and how we can explain and enforce the policy?


The California Labor Code and the Code of Civil Procedure, when read together, establish a public policy requiring employers to provide a safe and secure workplace for employees. This includes a requirement that an employer take reasonable steps to address credible threats of violence in the workplace. Also, pursuant to the Workplace Violence Safety Act, an employer may get a restraining order on behalf of an employee who has been threatened with violence or suffered violence if there is a reasonable chance that such violence may occur in the workplace. Based on these laws, it is recommended that employers adopt a workplace violence prevention policy.

Your workplace violence prevention policy should advise employees that the employer is committed to providing a workplace free from violence and establish that there will be “zero tolerance” for violence against other employees or other persons in the workplace. The policy should make all employees responsible for maintaining a violence-free workplace and stress that all incidents must be taken seriously and reported to management. It is also recommended that you include a definition of violence that covers physically violent behavior and behavior that is threatening, harassing or intimidating.

In order to have an effective workplace violence prevention policy, you need to communicate the company’s policy, and educate employees about how to report safety and security concerns and how to recognize warning signs that a co-worker might present a threat to others. Education and awareness of how to react to workplace violence can help defuse threatening situations and make your workplace a much safer and secure environment. It is helpful to include specific examples of situations that may occur in the workplace, so employees know how to react and what to do if workplace violence occurs. In particular, you may want to take the following steps to explain and enforce the policy:

  • Gather facts about you company’s history concerning any incidents of violence and any risks inherent in your industry so you can address them in the policy.
  • Make sure that the policy clearly tells employees what to do if they suspect or encounter violence in the workplace.
  • Advise employees there will be no retaliation for reporting suspected or actual violence so employees are encouraged to comply with and aid in the enforcement of the policy.

Most employers include the workplace violence prevention policy in the Employee Handbook. When you issue the handbook or policy to employees, it is recommended that you obtain a signed acknowledgement of receipt and retain a copy in the employee’s personnel file.

Finally, it is important to review and update your policy at regular intervals to make sure the workplace violence prevention policy is consistent with actual practice in the workplace.
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