In order to protect workers, employers should establish an emergency plan regarding violence on the job. This plan must train employees and managers on how to respond to workplace violence, and what steps to follow to prevent violence.
These precautions may seem overly cautious, but tragically, a number of recent violent incidents have proven the need for such precautions.
In the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Illinois on February 2, an armed man posed as a delivery man and tried to rob a Lane Bryant. Two customers entered during the robbery, and they, along with 4 other women in the store, were taken to the back room and bound with duct tape. During the robbery, the store manager called 911, enraging the shooter who promptly shot all 6 women, killing 5. A police officer was near the scene and arrived in less than a minute, but the gunman had already run away.
The lone surviving woman gave police a description of the shooter. A composite sketch of the suspect was distributed and police are searching for the killer.
The Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 left 32 students and staff dead and 17 more injured. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the shooter demonstrated several signs of impending workplace violence.
Seung-Hui Cho was not seeking treatment for his mental illness. He exhibited an unhealthy interest in weapons and flew into rages. He also developed unhealthy crushes on women he barely knew, and would engage in behavior similar to stalking. Police and university officials were criticized for their initial lack of response.
In Kirkwood, Missouri, a gunman burst into the February 7th council meeting and opened fire. The town’s mayor was hurt. Three city officials and two police officers were killed. The shooter, a political activist, had been ejected from two council meeting in previous months.
The Northern Illinois University tragedy in DeKalb, Illinois on February 14 alarmed the campus and the nation. Steven Kazmierczak, a graduate student who had recently transferred to another Illinois college, burst into a lecture hall, shot 22 people, killing 6, and then turned the gun on himself.
Kazmierczak was described by professors as an award-winning student with an interest in Criminal Justice. Police reports confirmed that the shooter had gone off his medications three weeks prior and his behavior was erratic. Jessica Baty, his girlfriend, disagreed, declaring Steven stressed from school, adding that he bought the two guns for “home security.”
Unfortunately, these tragedies are but a few of the incidents of workplace violence, several incidents also occurred in 2007.
From the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech to a shooting at Delaware State University and a stabbing at an Orlando Denny’s Restaurant, 2007 saw several incidents of workplace violence. The two more recent tragic episodes in Illinois and Missouri were simply the most recent.
A tragic event in September left two 17-year-old students dead at Delaware State. The school went on lockdown and the 1,700-member student body was confined to dormitories. Word of both the shooting and the lockdown went out over cell phones.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with several other law enforcement agencies, assisted campus police in the search for the shooter. Dover, Delaware police interviewed a student about the shooting later.
The incident at the University of Wisconsin involved a man who threatened to blow up an area hospital and fired several rounds near the building. Police said the bomb threat was false. The man was attempting to provoke a shoot-out with officers that would end in his death, police said.
“It’s a simple case of attempted ‘suicide by cop,’” said one officer at the scene, Burt Bruins.
Two recent grants will help civilian workers adjust to base closures in North Carolina and Oklahoma. The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced the award of two grants totaling $500 million for displaced workers affected by the Base Realignment and Closure program, also referred to by the acronym BRAC.
“This $5 million grant will help workers from Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base transition to rewarding careers in high-growth, high-tech industries,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
The demonstration grant was awarded to the BRAC Regional Taskforce, a coalition of several North Carolina workforce development boards, universities, community colleges, school districts and economic development commissions. The funds will be used to plan for regional transformation and ensure that workers are prepared for high-tech jobs in support of national military preparedness and homeland security.
The BRAC Regional Taskforce is responsible for:
- Leveraging workforce, economic, and educational resources to support emerging industries
- Connecting the region’s workforce with education and career opportunities
- Connecting military, business and industry representatives with workforce development activities
“Programs funded by this award will lead workers in this North Carolina regional economy to higher-paying, high-tech careers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. “This pilot project will not only help North Carolina weather economic changes, but also provide the region the opportunity to develop a pool of skilled workers who are prepared to succeed in today’s competitive global economy.”
The second grant awarded a $2.5 million demonstration grant to aid civilian workers in Oklahoma. Grant funds will also be sued to assist military spouses and service members who are transitioning from the military sector to private industry.
“This $2.5 million grant will help civilian workers, military spouses and service members affected by military base closures and relocations transition to new careers in high-growth industries,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
In this case, the grant was awarded to the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition, or SOIC. The SOIC is a collaborative effort between businesses, economic and workforce development and education partners. Funds will be used to support activities that will create employment opportunities and improve the overall quality of life for area workers. SOIC will focus on activities including attracting and recruiting qualified workers for employment in regional industries. The group will also expand the education and workforce development infrastructure to support industry-specific education and training programs. In addition, SOIC will assist current workers in obtaining credentials and licensures for other professions.
“As a result of today’s funding, Oklahoma will be modeling innovative approaches to regional BRAC-related economic transformation,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. “Providing workers with in-demand education and skills not only will have the immediate effect of meeting employment needs, but also will lay the groundwork for long-term talent development and regional economic growth.”
These most recent grants come in the wake of more than $20 million in grants to assist several states with planning and implementation of project related to workers dislocated under the BRAC program. Projects in several states will help connect these individuals with job opportunities in the civilian economy.
“These $20 million in grants will help workers affected by military base closures and relocations,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “Civilian workers at those bases will be provided employment services to help them find new jobs in high-growth industries.”
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 has been updated. The final USERRA regulations were recently released by the Dept. of Labor.
These changes affect all employees throughout our nation, including those in North Carolina. The law requires that employers make sure their USERRA posters are updated so that their employees know what the USERRA can do for them.
Because of these changes, now is a good time to update your North Carolina USERRA posters if you’re an employer. The USERRA is there to protect service members, clarify the law, and improve and enforcement, so it’s important that all workers know its regulations.
The following are a few significant changes made to the updated USERRA.
Federal government employees have been added to the list of those eligible to receive Dept. of Labor assistance in processing claims under USERRA.
Veterans and members of the Army, Navy, or Air Force reserve have their civilian jobs protected for up to five cumulative years while they serve their country. An employee can serve two years and then an additional three years and still be covered.
A soldier whose initial enlistment lasts for more than 5 years can still have his or her civilian job protected as long as basic eligibility criteria are met. Timing, frequency, duration or nature of an individual’s service are irrelevant. Periodic National Guard or Reserve training is not included in this five-year total.
Employees are entitled to the same job, salary, and benefits that would be achieved if they had remained in their civilian jobs when they return from military service.
In many cases, employees are also entitled to annual salary increases or cost-of-living raises that they would have received had they continued to work in their civilian jobs without a military leave of absence.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) provides assistance to everyone with claims under USERRA. In several test cases returning veterans are awarded promotions that they would have received based on length of service had they not taken time off for military leave.
Keeping up with our momentum here, we shouldn’t stop while we are ahead when it comes to reviewing all of the new additions to the North Carolina labor laws when it comes to workers’ comp and tort issues associated with workers getting hurt on the job at one of your work sites. Before I am finished, we will have covered all of the laws that you guys need to know. Heck, I promised it, so now I have to deliver, right?
Well, enough self-promotion here. Let me get to work. The next law I am going to look at was ratified by the North Carolina Common Assembly on July 27 and signed into effect by the Governor, Michael Easley later that month. The law is the Senate Bill 602, Session Law 2006-264. It has to do with any such future time that the Senate or the House in North Carolina want to make similar labor law changes for workers’ comp. This is a bit of a tangent here, but it is important to note that law makers have to give themselves the leeway to make technical changes to laws, not just wholesale policy changes.
The difference is a fine nuance, but it’s an important distinction. Because let’s say that the state of North Carolina has the right workers’ comp system set up, but eventually decides that it needs to change the amount of money afforded injured workers, or the amount of time that a disabled person can miss work before being categorized as a permanent disability. Those technical changes can be made without having to completely rewrite the law and upset the workers’ comp system.
In the case of this particular North Carolina labor law, the Senate decided it was necessary because the state has a General Statutes Commission, which review the so-called General Statutes. When this commission comes back with its technical findings, the state will want to change the laws to meet them.
In North Carolina most employer laws are addressed in the wage and hour act. The Wage and Hour Bureau is a division of the Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the act. Most of the provisions including payment of wages and youth employment are a direct reflection of the federal laws. The current minimum wage in NC is $5.15 per hour and will increase accordingly as the federal minimum is raised.
There is no limit on the number of hours that an employer can request an adult work, but they are required to pay time and one half the normal wage for any hours worked in excess of forty in a week. North Carolina (NC) employer laws do not require breaks or meal times be offered unless the employee is under 16 in which case they must be given a 30 minute break if working more than 5 hours. There are also no laws compelling employers to pay for hours not worked such as for holiday, sick time or vacation. Such benefits are entirely up to the employer and may vary depending on part time or full time status. If such benefits are promised however employers should have clear definition in writing and should honor their policy. There is also no such law defining any holidays that employers must observe. Should employment be discontinued for any reason all wages due shall be paid on or before the next regular payday.
According to NC employer laws no one under 18 should be employed without a work permit. There are also limitations to the hours that can be worked. These stipulations are different for youths 16 and 17, and those who are 14 and 15. The hours they are allowed to work will also be determined by whether or not it is during the school year or not.