Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a Virginia Walmart was not the first instance of a workplace massacre done by an employee.
While many organizations give active shooter training, experts say there is considerably less emphasis on preventing workplace violence, including identifying and addressing suspicious employee behavior.
According to specialists in workplace safety and human resources, employees frequently lack the ability to notice warning signals and, more importantly, do not feel empowered to report suspicious activity.
“We’ve established a whole business on security locks. We have made substantial investments in physical security measures such as metal detectors, cameras, and armed guards “James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in DePaul, Minnesota, and co-founder of the nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization The Violence Project, stated the following. In the majority of workplace shootings, he noted, “the perpetrator already has access to the building.”
In light of the fact that the Walmart shooting was carried out by a team leader, it has been questioned if employees feel empowered to speak up.
“Not coming home”: Families of Virginia Walmart shooting victims express anguish and dismay at 2:20 p.m.
Walmart identified the shooter as 31-year-old Andre Bing, who has worked for the firm since 2010 and whose most recent role was “overnight team lead” at the Chesapeake, Virginia, store. Police say he opened fire on coworkers in the break area, killing six and wounding six others before presumably committing suicide.
Briana Tyler, an employee who escaped the shooting, stated that the assailant did not appear to be targeting anyone in particular. Tyler, who began working at Walmart two months ago, has never had an unpleasant interaction with him, but others have warned her that he is “the boss to avoid.” She stated that Bing has a habit of writing up people without cause.
Family members named two of the murdered victims as Tyneka Johnson, age 22, and Brian Pendleton, age 39. Wednesday evening, the mayor of Chesapeake named the remaining adult victims as Lorenzo Gamble, Kellie Pyle, and Randall Blevins. The city stated that the identification of the sixth victim, a 16-year-old male, was hidden since he was a juvenile.
Change in policy following the 2019 shooting
2015 marked the debut of Walmart’s computer-based active shooter training, which centered on three pillars: avoid the threat, maintain a safe distance, and defend. Then, in 2019, when an outside shooter killed 22 people in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Walmart addressed the threat to the public by stopping sales of certain types of ammunition and requesting that customers no longer openly carry weapons in its shops. It currently solely offers hunting guns and ammo.
Wednesday, Walmart did not answer explicitly to requests asking more information about its training and practices to safeguard its own staff. The corporation stated that it constantly examines and would continue to assess its training procedures.
Densley stated that firms must offer avenues for employees to express concerns about employee conduct, such as discreet hotlines. Workers should be on the lookout for “yellow flags” — subtle changes in behavior, such as increasing hostility or absenteeism from work — rather than the more obvious “red flags.” Densley stated that supervisors must engage with these persons to obtain therapy and do routine check-ins.
In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s active shooter guideline advises that human resources managers must “establish a procedure for reporting indicators of possible aggressive behavior.” In addition, it encourages employees to report suspicious activity, such as excessive absenteeism and recurrent policy violations.
According to Liz Peterson, Quality Manager at the Society for Human Resource Management, an organization of more than 300,000 human resource professionals, many organizations may not have such preventative measures in place.
What we know about the mass shooting at a Walmart in Virginia 03:30
She highlighted that according to a 2019 SHRM study of its members, 55% of HR professionals did not know if their firms had policies to avoid workplace violence, and 9% indicated their organizations lacked such programs. In contrast, 57% of HR managers claimed to have received training on how to respond to violence.
A recent federal government assessment evaluating workplace violence over the past three decades revealed that workplace killings have increased in recent years, but remain much lower than their mid-1990s high.
Reduction in workplace murders
The most recent Walmart incident was the second significant mass shooting in the United States within the previous few days. In the early hours of Sunday, a gunman opened fire in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five and wounding 17 others.
From 2014 to 2019, the number of workplace killings grew by 11%, from 409 to 454. According to the study, which was issued in July by the Departments of Labor, Justice, and Health and Human Services, that was 58% less than the peak of 1,080 in 1994. The research discovered that workplace homicide patterns closely tracked national homicide trends.
Peterson stated that the increase of major public shootings is increasing businesses’ awareness of the need to treat mental health in the workplace and avoid violence, as well as the liabilities they face if they disregard warning indications.
In one prominent case, a victim’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Northern California Transportation agency earlier this year, alleging that the agency failed to address the history of threatening behavior of an employee who shot and killed nine coworkers at a light railyard in San Jose in 2021.
The transportation agency published more than 200 pages of emails and other papers revealing that the shooter, Samuel James Cassidy, had been the subject of four workplace behavior reports, and one employee had feared he may “go postal.” This statement derives from one of the bloodiest workplace shootings in U.S. history, which occurred in 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma, when a postal worker shot and murdered 14 coworkers.
“Workplace violence is a circumstance that you never believe will occur in your business until it does,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, it’s vital to be prepared for it because it’s growing more prevalent.”
»The Walmart massacre highlights the need for workplace violence prevention«