How should HR handle a gun threat?

A co-worker in a management position said out loud in our lobby, in front of another employee and a waiting customer: “If you have a gun and want to come here, can you call me and let me get out of the building”.

I went and told my story to HR. In a perfect world, what actions should HR be taking?

Posted 04-09-2013

Ann Kiernan replies:

Threats of gun use must be taken very seriously. If I were advising HR, I would tell them to investigate the situation immediately. It might be a good idea to put the threatening employee out on paid administrative leave to ensure safety while the investigation is being conducted.

Even if the investigation shows that your co-worker had no intention of carrying out the gun threat, his conduct might well violate your company’s policies on threatening or abusive language, and therefore merit suspension, demotion, or even termination. If your co-worker was just voicing frustration, perhaps a referral to Employee Assistance for anger management counseling might be a good idea. Good luck.

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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.