Congressional Workplace Violence Hearing Held



Workplace Violence Threatens Safety of U.S. Workers, Witness Panel Tells Congress

Subcommittee Examines Growing Questions About Violence in the Workplace

WASHINGTON, DC - Beginning a series of hearings on emerging trends in employer and labor law, the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, chaired by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), held a hearing today to examine the issue of workplace security.

Regardless of ones affiliation, workplace violence cannot be tolerated, stated Chairman Johnson. We need to ensure that all American workers can perform their jobs in a safe environment.

Workplace violence is an issue this committee and this Congress takes very seriously, said Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Today's hearing not only explored instances of violence in the workplace, it also lays the groundwork for steps Congress may take down the road to address this growing problem.

As a result of the September 11 attacks, many companies have placed a renewed emphasis on security for their workers. A representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigations Critical Incident Response Group, Supervisory Special Agent Eugene Rugala, cited Department of Justice statistics which showed that an average of 1.7 million violent crimes were committed from 1993 to 1999, not including an average of 900 homicides every year.

The impact of violence in the workplace from lost work time and wages, reduced productivity, medical costs, worker compensation payments, legal, and security expenses, is estimated to be in the many millions of dollars, stated Rugala. However, the impact of this type of crime goes beyond the workplace. By impacting society as a whole, it damages trust, harms the community, and threatens the sense of security every worker has a right to feel while on the job.

Testifying on behalf of the Society of Human Resource Management, Rebecca Speer of Speer Associates in San Francisco discussed some of the problems companies face as they attempt to ensure a safe work environment: Clearly, workplace violence places a heavy burden on the steps of corporate America, which faces significant practical, economic, and legal challenges in effectively addressing this problem, stated Ms. Speer. Previously reserved for law enforcements expertise, business owners, managers, and human resources professionals are now required to turn attention to violent and threatening behavior affecting the workplace.

David Horn, the Vice President and General Counsel of AK Steel Corporation, detailed for the subcommittee a number of violent incidents that have occurred at its Mansfield, Ohio plant as part of an ongoing labor dispute now entering its fourth year. While noting his companys belief that most union members deplore the seamy underbelly of violent activity in which some of its radical members engage, Mr. Horn expressed his frustration that Time and again, union leaders have laced their rhetoric against our company to their members with references to violence or violent acts against their company and its replacement workers.

Carl Donaway, the Chairman and CEO of Airborne Express, told the subcommittee of the problems his company experienced when an employee made violent threats against other employees. Dealing with the threat immediately, Airborne dismissed the employee only to see him reinstated by a grievance panel. As the appeals process went forward, legal advisors to the company suggested that it was likely the employee would be reinstated again even though he was an obvious threat to the company. As a result, Donway said Airborne was forced to enter into a global settlement for both the litigation and the grievance that included a substantial payment to secure the employees resignation.

"My concern ... was to insure that Airborne's workplace safety concerns were addressed and that my employees were protected from the threat of future violence at the hands of this individual, said Donaway. He concluded by suggesting that Congress should further review these types of workplace safety issues, saying that rewarding dangerous individuals is not a viable solution to this type of problem.

Witness Testimony


I like the fact that workplace violence is a "cardinal sin" in our contract.

If you threaten someone with physical violence, you have to go.....and the union should not even fight to get your job back. The Airborne case makes me sick.


The Airborne case makes me sick
I would be interested to know if there is another side to that story.


"I would be interested to know if there is another side to that story"

Always is....